Objectives To evaluate whether the requirement of “minimal risk and burden” for paediatric research without direct benefit to the subjects compromises the ability to obtain data necessary for improving paediatric care. To provide evidence-based reflections on the EU recommendation that allows for a higher level of risk.
Design and setting Systematic analysis of the approval/rejection decisions made by the Dutch Central Committee on Research involving Human Subjects (CCMO).
Review methods The analysis included 165 proposals for paediatric research without direct benefit that were reviewed by the CCMO between January, 2000, and July, 2007. A separate, in-depth analysis of all drug studies included 18 early phase drug studies and nine other drug studies without direct benefit.
Results 11 out of 165 studies were definitively rejected because the CCMO did not regard the risk and/or burden to be minimal. In three of these 11 cases (including two early phase drug studies) the requirement of minimal risk and burden was cited as the only reason for rejection. Four other early phase drug studies also involved risks and/or burdens that were not regarded to be minimal but were nevertheless approved.
Conclusions The requirement of minimal risk and burden, aiming to protect research subjects, occasionally leads to rejection of protocols. Early phase drug studies relatively often do not comply with the requirement. Committees may find ways to approve important studies that formally should be rejected, but that is not a desirable solution. The regulatory framework should be revised to make such occasional exceptions to the requirement legitimate and transparent.
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Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.