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NIH Proposes New IRB Policy for Multi-site Studies

A draft policy from the US National Institutes of Health says that multi-site clinical studies should use a single institutional review board, according to an agency press release.

When protections for research participants were established, NIH notes that most studies were conducted at one site. Now as many studies are taking place across a number of sites, multiple IRBs are used. This, the agency argues, is not efficient.

"Maintaining the highest ethical standards in the research we fund is of utmost importance," Francis Collins, the NIH director, said in a statement. "By using single IRBs in multi-site studies, we reduce duplication of effort, speed the initiation of important research, and save time and taxpayer funds." 

NIH adds that some of its centers already have been supporting the use of a single IRBs for multi-site clinical studies, which it says shows the viability of such a policy.

"I believe this proposed policy is a step forward to reducing burdens associated with NIH-funded clinical research and enhancing the efficiency of the process while still ensuring protections of all the volunteers," adds Sally Rockey, the deputy director for extramural research at NIH, at her Rock Talk blog.

The proposed policy is open for public comment through January 29.