Conflicts of Interest Hardly Addressed

Leslie Wolf, an associate professor of law at Georgia State University, studied the IRB policies posted on the Web sites of 117 medical schools that received National Institutes of Health funding. Wolf revealed that less than half of the IRB policies discuss finder's fees or bonus payments as conflicts of interest, where research sponsors pay members of the research team or clinicians to identify potential participants or for meeting predetermined enrolment targets.

"Since IRBs must review research protocols, and also are in a position to educate investigators about these issues, I thought their policies were an important place to look," Wolf said. "I thought they would have tried to address it more frequently than they did. That is a gap in IRB guidance."

Finder's fees raise concern because researchers and their colleagues may be tempted to enrol individuals in studies for which they are ineligible, Wolf said. Wolf is also concerned that only 26 of the IRBs in the study mentioned potential conflicts when physicians recruit their own patients and that only four percent ask doctors to tell their patients that they are not obligated to participate.

"It was talked about much less frequently than either the employer/employee or the teacher/student role conflict. Patients may be particularly vulnerable," Wolf said.

MEDICA.de; Source: Georgia State University