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Institutional ethics review of clinical study agreements
  1. G DuVal
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr G DuVal
 University of Toronto, Joint Centre for Bioethics, 88 College Street, Toronto, ON, Canada M5G 1L4;


Clinical Study Agreements (CSAs) can have profound effects both on the protection of human subjects and on the independence of investigators to conduct research with scientific integrity. Sponsors, institutions, and even investigators may fail to give adequate attention to these issues in the negotiation of CSAs. Despite the key role of CSAs in structuring ethically important aspects of research, they remain largely unregulated and unreviewed for adherence to ethical norms. Academic institutions routinely enter into research contracts that fail to meet adequate ethical standards. This is a failing that can have serious consequences.

Accordingly, it is necessary that some independent body have the authority both to review research contracts for compliance with norms of subject protection and ethical integrity, and to reject studies that fail to meet ethical standards. Such review should take place prior to the start of research, not later. Because of its expertise and authority, the institutional ethics review board (IRB or REB) is the appropriate body to undertake such review. Much recent commentary has focused on contractual restrictions on the investigator’s freedom to publish research findings. The Olivieri experience, and that of other investigators, has brought freedom of publication issues into sharp focus. Clinical study agreements also raise a number of other ethical issues relating to human subjects and research integrity, however, including disclosures relating to patient safety, data analysis and reporting, budget, confidentiality, and premature termination of the study. This paper describes the ethical issues at stake in structuring such agreements and suggests ethical standards to guide institutional ethics review.

  • clinical study agreements
  • research on human subjects
  • research review
  • Olivieri/Apotex affair
  • institutional review boards
  • research ethics

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