Legal and Ethical Obligations to Conduct a Clinical Drug Trial in Australia as an Investigator Initiated and Sponsored Study for an Overseas Pharmaceutical Company
Beran, Roy G.
Medicine and Law: World Association for Medical Law 2004; 23(4): 913-924
Most multi-centre trials are both financed and sponsored by the pharmaceutical company involved. What follows will map the path adopted for an investigator initiated and sponsored study for a new indication of an established medication. The chief investigators of a company-sponsored, investigator-initiated, multi-centre, placebo- controlled study of an established medication, Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme (PBS) listed for treatment of one condition but trialled in the management of another condition (trial of off-label use), were approached to submit a protocol to repeat the type of study with a different compound. The new study would test a different agent, also PBS listed, for the same condition as in the initial study and with the same off-licence application. The company would finance the study, provide the medication and matched placebo but only review the investigator-initiated protocol which would be sponsored by the principal investigator. This required the investigator to implement the trial, as would normally be done by the pharmaceutical company, yet also act as its principal investigator. The principal investigator, with colleagues and a Clinical Research Organisation (CRO), developed a protocol, adapted for the new agent, and submitted it for approval. Upon acceptance a contract was negotiated with the pharmaceutical company which had to overcome jurisdictional conflicts between common law and civil law legal systems. A CRO was contracted to undertake administrative functions which dictated special contractual agreements to overcome possible conflicts of interest for a sponsor/investigator to protect patient interests. There was need to find indemnification insurance with jurisdictional problems, co-investigators, ethics committee approvals and finance management as just some of the difficulties encountered. The paper will outline how these obstacles were overcome and how ethical and legal issues were respected through compromise. The ethical and legal obligations were addressed in a fashion which allowed the conduct of a trial adopting a proven methodology but novel infrastructure such that it was a totally independent study with regards conduct and reporting of final data, irrespective of the results being either positive or negative. This may represent a more acceptable way to ensure that future clinical trials are devoid of undue influence from the pharmaceutical industry which may still fund the study.
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