In collaboration with First Clinical Research, we bring you the Clinical Research Ethics Question of the Month: You are a member of an IRB reviewing a study of a marketed drug for treating depression. Previous studies of this drug have shown minimal side effects. They have also shown a very high, enduring placebo effect. In fact, the symptoms of most study participants improved, regardless of whether they received the study drug or the placebo. This study has a twist: The goal is not to assess the efficacy of the drug, but to assess the efficacy of participating in a study of the drug. In other words, the study itself is the treatment under investigation. Read more
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You are the chief human research protections officer at a prestigious academic medical center (AMC). You have just discovered that two doctors on your staff have been secretly conducting a clinical study on their patients. The doctors have broken every rule in the human subjects protection book. They did not even tell their patients they were in a clinical study, and some of them died. The president of the AMC has called a meeting this afternoon where you will have to explain the situation and make your recommendations. What a nightmare! To complicate things, it turns out that the study treatment is an astonishing medical breakthrough that can save thousands of lives. The doctors want to submit a paper to a major medical journal by the end of the week. A Nobel Prize could be in order. Read more
You are a member of an IRB that is reviewing a study on the effectiveness of placebo “treatments.” It is well known that different sizes, shapes and colors of pills cause different levels of the placebo effect, which also varies by the therapeutic indication and the country/culture. The investigators want to test the placebo effect across a broad range of diseases and countries. The placebo pill will be presented as a “booster” to their current treatment--not a placebo. Read more
In its December 15 report, the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (the Commission) makes 14 recommendations to improve the current system of research protections.
One of the most nuanced and interesting parts of the Commission’s 193-page report is the [...] Read more