Constructing a trial as a personal lifestyle change project: Participants' experiences in a clinical study for nicotine vaccination

A. Wolters*, G. de Wert, O. van Schayck, K. Horstman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The purpose of this study was to gain insight into the experiences and dynamics of the involvement of research participants in a randomized clinical trial for nicotine vaccination. Participants received an experimental nicotine vaccine or a placebo, in addition to quit smoking medication and counseling. The longitudinal design of this qualitative study allowed us to follow people from their first visit to the trial location until the unblinding of their treatment with either verum or placebo vaccine. The empirical data consisted of 49 semi-structured, in-depth interviews, field notes and memos, and trial documents collected in the Netherlands between 2010 and 2012.

Participants' expectations and experiences of the innovative nicotine vaccine were characterized by ambivalence: Although they complied with the research design, throughout the study they tinkered with discourses, objects, and activities to make them serve their individual goals. They made the concepts of nicotine vaccination and placebo treatment meaningful for quitting, reshaped the meaning of research tests and obligatory visits to serve their own personal goals, and introduced a new element into the trial by creating space to discuss problems that might endanger the quit attempt. In short, the participants constructed the clinical study for nicotine vaccination as their own personal lifestyle change project. (C) 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)116-123
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Issue number2014
Early online date18 Dec 2013
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014


  • Netherlands
  • Research participants
  • Expectations and experiences
  • Constructing meaning
  • Randomized clinical trial
  • Nicotine vaccine
  • Quitting smoking
  • Placebo

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