According to a commentary by former Institute of Medicine (IOM) committee members, published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, increased “fast-tracking” of drug approvals (i.e., for medical conditions with no effective treatment) necessitates a counterbalance of enhanced postmarket surveillance and ethical governance throughout the lifecycle of a drug.  The authors of the report argue that the FDA, when requiring that a postmarked study be initiated, has a unique ethical obligation to research participants, which “cannot be handed off to contractors or the industry sponsor.”  Furthermore, “because some postmarked trials are required specifically to address mounting concerns that the drug’s risks may outweigh its benefits, there are heightened obligations to ensure that potential research participants understand the risks of enrollment.”  Because the volume of postmarked studies is increasing – due not only to FDA-mandated research, but also to increased emphasis on comparative-effectiveness – the benefit-risk balance for comparable study designs can vary depending upon the purpose for which a specific study is being conducted.  The challenges, therefore, for ensuring truly informed consent by study participants can vary widely.

Source:  Science Codex

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