Towards a balanced approach to identifying conflicts of interest faced by institutional review boards
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The welfare and protection of human subjects is critical to the integrity of clinical investigation and research. Institutional review boards (IRBs) were thus set up to be impartial reviewers of research protocols in clinical research. Their main role is to stand between the investigator and her human subjects in order to ensure that the welfare of human subjects are protected. While there is much literature on the conflicts of interest (CIs) faced by investigators and researchers in clinical investigations, an area that is less explored is CIs that may affect members of IRBs during the institutional ethics review of clinical investigations. This article examines the notion of CIs in clinical research and attempts to develop a framework for a clearer and more balanced approach to identifying CIs that may influence members of IRBs and impede their independence. It will also apply the proposed framework to demonstrate how IRBs possess, or at least may appear to possess, forms of financial CIs and non-financial CIs. The proper identification and management of these CIs is critical to preserving the integrity of clinical investigations and achieving the primary aim of human subjects protection.
KeywordsClinical research Institutional review boards (IRBs) Conflicts of interests (CIs)
We would like thank Mr. Peter Crook for his insightful comments on an earlier draft of this article.
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