Background Methods for assessing the level of understanding of trial-related information during the informed consent (IC) process in developing countries are lacking. Purpose To assess the understanding and retention of trial-related information presented in the IC process by administering an informed consent assessment instrument (ICAI) to participants in a clinical trial for a new tuberculosis (TB) regimen being conducted in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). Methods The format of the ICAI was based on the language and structure of the United States National Cancer Institute's IC comprehension checklist. The ICAI was designed to assess points of the RioMAR study IC process that addressed the principles of research ethics requested by Brazilian Regulatory Authority: autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice. Briefly, (1) Is the respondent participating in a clinical trial? (2) Are two different treatments being evaluated? (3) Is the treatment arm chosen by chance? (4) Is an HIV test required? (5) Are liver function tests required? (6) Can participants leave the study at any time? (7) Are the risks and benefits of taking part in the study clear? (8) May pregnant women participate in the study? (9) Can one of the study drugs reduce the effectiveness of contraceptives? (10) Are patients paid to participate in the study? The ICAI was applied at two time points: immediately after enrollment in the clinical trial and 2 months later. Results A total of 61 patients who enrolled in the RioMAR study participated in this study. The percentage of correct answers to all questions was 82% at the time of the first ICAI; 31 participants (51%) did not recall that an HIV test was required (question 4) and 43 (70%) did not know that they could leave the study (question 6). Other individual questions were answered correctly by at least 76% of participants. There was no association between incorrect answers and age, gender, monthly family income, neighborhood, or level of education (p > 0.07). When the responses to the first and the second ICAI questions were compared, 15% or more of participants had conflicting answers to 5 of the 10 questions. Limitations The ICAI uses dichotomous responses, leading to a 50% chance of guessing the correct answers. Two questions were asked only of women. Finally, only 6 of the 10 questions on the current version of the ICAI apply to most trials; others are trial-specific.
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