Research Ethics Roundup: Creating Data Donation Systems, Late-Stage Trials and Drug Costs, Using Drones for Animal Research, USDA Reacts to Public Criticism

This week’s Research Ethics Roundup highlights the argument for treating medical data donations like organ donations, bioethicists’ suggestions for how to lower drug costs, how Australian animal researchers are using unpiloted drones, and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s decision to re-publish a portion of the Animal Welfare Act records that they previously removed.

Why You Should Donate Your Data (as Well as Your Organs) When You Die
In a piece for The Conversation, David Martin Shaw, J. Valérie Gross, and Thomas C. Erren highlight the benefits of choosing to donate your medical data before you die. The authors also propose that national data donation systems be set up and modeled on organ donation registries. These systems would allow patients to control how their medical data is shared both while they are living and after they’ve died.

Improving FDA Evaluations without Jeopardizing Safety and Efficacy
In this opinion piece for The Scientist, John D. Loike and Jennifer Miller argue that policymakers who wish to address the high cost of drug development should not curtail the use of late-stage clinical trials, but rather revisit trial transparency issues and the manner in which preclinical research is conducted. Despite federal laws requiring it, many sponsors do not publicly disclose trial results, likely resulting in unnecessary duplication of expensive research. They argue that if the FDA revisited these issues, costs could be lowered without coming at the expense of patient safety.                                                            

Why Drones are a Game-Changer for Animal Research
Ariel Bogle reports for Mashable on Australian scientists’ use of unpiloted drones to track animal behavior. This new method is less disruptive than tracking animals on foot or by plane, since the researchers can simply attach small transmitters to the animals to ensure that they receive a radio signal on the animal’s progress. In developing standards for the use of such drones, the researchers also developed an animal-drone code of conduct to address ethical concerns.

USDA Republishes Some of the Missing Animal Welfare Act Records
In response to public uproar, the USDA has re-posted some animal research inspection records they removed from their public website in early February. As Elizabeth Doughman explains for ALN Magazine, both supporters and opponents of biomedical research with animals saw the USDA’s move as contrary to the spirit of transparency. The re-posted records detailing Animal Welfare Act (AWA) violations only cover a portion of AWA-covered institutions, such as federal research facilities.