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Policies regarding IRB members' industry relationships often lacking
Date:3/24/2009

At a time of heightened concern about conflicts of interest posed by relationships between academic medical researchers and commercial firms, a new study finds that a significant number of academic institutions do not have clear policies covering the industrial relationships of members of Institutional Review Boards (IRBs), committees charged with ensuring that clinical studies uphold patient rights and follow ethical guidelines. In the April issue of Academic Medicine, researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Institute for Health Policy report that many IRBs do not require members to disclose industrial relationships and that procedures for defining, reporting and handling conflicts vary widely among institutions.

"This study points to an obvious need for more consistent policies and accountability in regards to industry relationships within IRBs," says lead author Christine Vogeli, PhD. "IRBs and medical schools can't manage what they don't know, so consistent reporting among IRB members is vital to ensuring the integrity and safety of medical research."

Every institution in the U.S. that conducts research involving human participants must have an IRB, which is responsible for reviewing proposed studies to make sure the rights and safety of participants are protected and that study protocols are scientifically valid and follow ethical and regulatory guidelines. IRBs also monitor the conduct of studies to make sure that appropriate practices are maintained. In 2006 MGH Institute of Health Policy researchers, including the authors of the current study, published a survey of IRB members regarding their personal industrial relationships, whether their IRBs had policies or processes regarding such relationships, and their own actions regarding protocols related to companies with which they had relationships.

The current study surveyed the chairs of IRBs at 107 U.S. medical schools and research hospitals regard
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Contact: Sue McGreevey
smcgreevey@partners.org
617-724-2764
Massachusetts General Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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