Scope of Review
Ethics Committee Fees
Oversight of Ethics Committees
Clinical Trial Lifecycle
Timeline of Review
Initiation, Agreements & Registration
Definition of Sponsor
Insurance & Compensation
Risk & Quality Management
Data & Records Management
Personal Data Protection
Pregnant Women, Fetuses & Neonates
Definition of Investigational Product
Manufacturing & Import
|Clinical trial application language||English|
|Regulatory authority & ethics committee review may be conducted at the same time||Yes|
|Clinical trial registration required||Yes|
|In-country sponsor presence/representation required||No|
|Age of minors||Determined at the State Level|
|Specimens export allowed||Yes|
Regulatory Authority > Scope of Assessment
In accordance with the FDCAct, 21CFR50, and 21CFR312, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has authority over clinical investigations for drug and biological products regulated by the agency. 21CFR312 specifies that the scope of the FDA’s assessment for investigational new drug applications (INDs) includes all clinical trials (Phases 1-4). Based on 21CFR56 and 21CFR312, institutional ethics committee (EC) review of the proposed clinical investigation may be conducted in parallel with the FDA review of the IND. However, EC approval must be obtained prior to the sponsor being permitted to initiate the clinical trial. (Note: Institutional ECs are referred to as institutional review boards (IRBs) in the United States (US)).
As delineated in 21CFR312 and USA-42, sponsors are required to submit an IND to the FDA to obtain an agency exemption to ship investigational drug(s) across state lines to conduct drug or biologic clinical trial(s). An IND specifically exempts an investigational drug or biologic from FDA premarketing approval requirements that would otherwise be applicable. 21CFR312 states that “‘IND’ is synonymous with ‘Notice of Claimed Investigational Exemption for a New Drug.’"
According to USA-42, the FDA categorizes INDs as either commercial or non-commercial (research) and classifies them into the following types:
- Investigator INDs - Submitted by physicians who both initiate and conduct the investigation, and who are directly responsible for administering or dispensing the investigational drug.
- Emergency Use INDs - Enable the FDA to authorize experimental drugs in an emergency situation where normal IND submission timelines cannot be met. Also used for patients who do not meet the criteria of an existing study protocol, or if an approved study protocol does not exist.
- Treatment INDs - Submitted for experimental drugs showing potential to address serious or immediately life-threatening conditions while the final clinical work is conducted and the FDA review takes place.
Per the G-PharmeCTD, non-commercial products refer to products not intended to be distributed commercially and include the above listed IND types.
As indicated in the G-IND-Determination, in general, human research studies must be conducted under an IND if all of the following research conditions apply:
- A drug is involved as defined in the FDCAct
- A clinical investigation is being conducted as defined in 21CFR312
- The clinical investigation is not otherwise exempt from 21CFR312
The G-IND-Determination states that biological products may also be considered drugs within the meaning of the FDCAct.
Further, per 21CFR312 and the G-IND-Determination, whether an IND is required to conduct an investigation of a marketed drug primarily depends on the intent of the investigation and the degree of risk associated with the use of the drug in the investigation. See 21CFR312 and the G-IND-Determination for detailed exemption conditions for marketed drugs.
Clinical Trial Review Process
As delineated in 21CFR312, the FDA's primary objectives in reviewing an IND are to ensure human participant safety and rights in all phases of the investigation. Phase 1 submission reviews focus on assessing investigation safety, and Phase 2 and 3 submission reviews also include an assessment of the investigation’s scientific quality and ability to yield data capable of meeting marketing approval statutory requirements. An IND may be submitted for one (1) or more phases of an investigation.
As per USA-41 and USA-94, the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) and the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER) receive IND submissions for drugs, therapeutic biological products, and other biologicals. Per the FDCAct and 21CFR312, an IND automatically goes into effect 30 calendar days from receipt, unless the FDA notifies the sponsor that the IND is subject to a clinical hold, or the FDA has notified the sponsor earlier that the trial may begin. A clinical hold is an order the FDA issues to delay or suspend a clinical investigation. If the FDA determines there may be grounds for imposing a clinical hold, an attempt will be made to discuss and resolve any issues with the sponsor prior to issuing the clinical hold order. See 21CFR312 for more information on clinical holds.
According to USA-41, with respect to sponsor-investigators, once the FDA receives the IND, an IND number will be assigned and the application will be forwarded to the appropriate reviewing division. A letter will be sent to the sponsor-investigator providing notification of the assigned IND number, date of receipt of the original application, address where future submissions to the IND should be sent, and the name and telephone number of the FDA person to whom questions about the application should be directed.
As indicated in 21CFR312, the FDA may at any time during the course of the investigation communicate with the sponsor orally or in writing about deficiencies in the IND or about the FDA's need for more data or information. Furthermore, on the sponsor's request, the FDA will provide advice on specific matters relating to an IND.
21CFR312 indicates that once an IND is in effect, a sponsor must submit a protocol amendment if he/she intends to conduct a study that is not covered by a protocol already contained in the IND, there is any change to the protocol that significantly affects the safety of subjects, or a new investigator is added to carry out a previously submitted protocol. A sponsor must submit a protocol amendment for a new protocol or a change in protocol before its implementation, while protocol amendments to add a new investigator or to provide additional information about investigators may be grouped and submitted at 30-day intervals. See 21CFR312 for more information on protocol amendments.
As per 21CFR312, if no subjects are entered into a clinical study two (2) years or more under an IND, or if all investigations under an IND remain on clinical hold for one (1) year or more, the IND may be placed by FDA on inactive status. An IND that remains on inactive status for five (5) years or more may be terminated. See 21CFR312 for more information on inactive status.
21CFR312 indicates that the FDA may propose to terminate an IND based on deficiencies in the IND or in the conduct of an investigation under an IND. If the FDA proposes to terminate an IND, the agency will notify the sponsor in writing, and invite correction or explanation within a period of 30 days. If at any time FDA concludes that continuation of the investigation presents an immediate and substantial danger to the health of individuals, the FDA will immediately, by written notice to the sponsor, terminate the IND. See 21CFR312 for more information on FDA termination.
For information on the appropriate use of adaptive designs for clinical trials and additional information to provide the FDA to support its review, see G-AdaptiveTrials.
For research involving cellular and gene therapy, see the guidance documents at USA-80.
USA-84 further indicates that the FDA has several approaches to making drugs available as rapidly as possible:
- Breakthrough Therapy - expedites the development and review of drugs which may demonstrate substantial improvement over available therapy
- Accelerated Approval - allow drugs for serious conditions that fill an unmet medical need to be approved based on a surrogate endpoint
- Priority Review - a process by which the FDA’s goal is to take action on an application within six (6) months
- Fast Track - facilitates the development and expedites the review of drugs to treat serious conditions and fill an unmet medical need
Regulatory Authority > Regulatory Fees
Food & Drug Administration
The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) does not levy a fee to review investigational new drug submissions.
However, per the FDCAct, FDARA, and USA-45, the FDA has the authority to assess and collect user fees from companies that produce certain human drug and biological products as part of the New Drug Application (NDA). Per USA-43, the NDA is the vehicle through which drug sponsors formally propose that the FDA approve a new pharmaceutical for sale and marketing in the United States. The data gathered during the animal studies and human clinical trials of an investigational new drug become part of the NDA.
Ethics Committee > Ethics Committee
As indicated in 21CFR50, 21CFR56, and 21CFR312, the United States (US) has a decentralized process for the ethics review of clinical investigations. The sponsor must obtain institutional level ethics committee (EC) approval for each study. (Note: Institutional ECs are referred to as institutional review boards (IRBs) in the US.)
As set forth in 21CFR50, 21CFR56, and 21CFR312, all clinical investigations for drug and biological products regulated by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) require institutional EC approval. The Pre2018-ComRule and the RevComRule also require that human subjects research receive institutional EC approval. However, note that these regulations’ definition of “human subject” does not include the use of non-identifiable biospecimens. Therefore, the use of non-identifiable biospecimens in research does not, on its own, mandate the application of the Pre2018-ComRule to such research. However, the RevComRule does require federal departments or agencies implementing the policy to work with data experts to reexamine the meaning of “identifiable private information” and “identifiable specimen” within one (1) year of the effective date and at least every four (4) years thereafter. In particular, these agencies will collaboratively assess whether there are analytic technologies or techniques that could be used to generate identifiable private information or identifiable specimens. See USA-65, USA-66, and USA-54, and the Regulatory Authority section for more information on the RevComRule and agency-specific compliance.
Ethics Committee Composition
As stated in 21CFR56, the Pre2018-ComRule, and the RevComRule, an EC must be composed of at least five (5) members with varying backgrounds to promote complete and adequate research proposal review. The EC must be sufficiently qualified through member experience, expertise, and diversity, in terms of race, gender, cultural backgrounds, and sensitivity to issues such as community attitudes, to promote respect for its advice and counsel in safeguarding human participants’ rights and welfare. EC members must possess the professional competence to review research activities and be able to ascertain the acceptability of proposed research based on institutional commitments and regulations, applicable laws, and standards. In addition, if an EC regularly reviews research involving vulnerable populations, the committee must consider including one (1) or more individuals knowledgeable about and experienced in working with those participants. See the Vulnerable Populations section for details on vulnerable populations.
At a minimum, each EC must also include the following members:
- One (1) primarily focused on scientific issues
- One (1) focused on nonscientific issues
- One (1) unaffiliated with the institution, and not part of the immediate family of a person affiliated with the institution
No EC member may participate in the initial or continuing review of any project in which he/she has a conflicting interest, except to provide EC requested information.
Terms of Reference, Review Procedures, and Meeting Schedule
As delineated in 21CFR56, ECs must follow written procedures for the following:
- Conducting initial and continuing reviews, and reporting findings and actions
- Determining which projects require review more often than annually, and which projects need verification from sources other than the investigator that no material changes have occurred since the previous EC review
- Ensuring that changes in approved research are not initiated without EC review and approval except where necessary to eliminate apparent immediate hazards to participants
- Ensuring prompt reporting to the EC, institution, and FDA of changes in research activity; unanticipated problems involving risks to participants or others; any instance of serious or continuing noncompliance with these regulations or EC requirements or determinations; or EC approval suspension/termination
Per the Pre2018-ComRule, the RevComRule, and the US-ICH-GCPs, ECs must establish and follow written procedures for the following:
- Conducting initial and continuing reviews, and reporting findings and actions to the investigator and the institution
- Determining which projects require review more often than annually, and which projects need verification from sources other than the investigator that no material changes have occurred since the previous EC review
- Ensuring prompt reporting to the EC of proposed changes in research and ensuring that investigators conduct the research in accordance with the terms of the EC approval until any proposed changes have received EC review and approval, except where necessary to eliminate apparent immediate hazards to participants
- Ensuring prompt reporting to the EC, the institution, the FDA, and the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS)’ Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) of any unanticipated problems involving risks to participants or others; any instance of serious or continuing noncompliance with these regulations or EC requirements or determinations; or EC approval suspension/termination.
21CFR56, the Pre2018-ComRule, and the RevComRule further require that an institution, or where appropriate an EC, prepare and maintain adequate documentation of EC activities, including copies of all research proposals reviewed. The applicable records must be retained for at least three (3) years after completion of the research. For more details on the EC records included in this requirement, see the Pre2018-ComRule, the RevComRule, and 21CFR56.
See G-IRBProcs for detailed guidance on EC written procedures to enhance human participant protection and reduce regulatory burden. The guidance includes a Written Procedures Checklist that incorporates regulatory requirements as well as recommendations on operational details to support the requirements.
Per 21CFR56, the Pre2018-ComRule, and the RevComRule, proposed research must be reviewed during convened meetings at which a majority of the EC members are present, including at least one (1) member whose primary concerns are nonscientific, except when an expedited review procedure is used. Research is only considered approved if it receives the majority approval of attending members.
Refer to the Pre2018-ComRule, the RevComRule, 21CFR56, the G-IRBProcs, and the G-IRBFAQs for detailed EC procedural requirements.
In addition, per the Pre2018-ComRule, the RevComRule, and the G-HHS-Inst-Engagemt, any institution engaged in non-exempt human subjects research conducted or supported by a Common Rule department/agency (as identified in USA-65) must also submit a written assurance of compliance to OHRP. According to USA-59, the Federalwide Assurance (FWA) is the only type of assurance of compliance accepted and approved by OHRP for HHS-funded research. See USA-57 for more information on FWA.
Ethics Committee > Scope of Review
21CFR56, 21CFR312, the Pre2018-ComRule, the RevComRule, and the US-ICH-GCPs state that the primary scope of information assessed by the ethics committee (EC) (referred to as an institutional review board (IRB) in the United States (US)) relates to maintaining and protecting the dignity and rights of research participants and ensuring their safety throughout their participation in a clinical trial. As delineated in 21CFR56, the Pre2018-ComRule, and the RevComRule, the EC must also pay special attention to reviewing informed consent and to protecting the welfare of certain classes of participants deemed to be vulnerable. (See the Vulnerable Populations; Children/Minors; Pregnant Women, Fetuses, & Neonates; Prisoners; and Mentally Impaired sections for additional information about these populations). The EC is also responsible for ensuring a competent review of the research protocol, evaluating the possible risks and expected benefits to participants, and verifying the adequacy of confidentiality safeguards.
Role in Clinical Trial Approval Process
In accordance with 21CFR56 and 21CFR312, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) must review an investigational new drug application (IND) and an EC must review and approve the proposed study prior to a sponsor initiating a clinical trial. The institutional EC review of the clinical investigation may be conducted in parallel with the FDA review of the IND. However, EC approval must be obtained prior to the sponsor being permitted to initiate the clinical trial. According to 21CFR56, the Pre2018-ComRule, and the RevComRule, the EC may approve, require modifications in (to secure approval), or disapprove the research.
Refer to the G-RevComRule-FDA for information on the impact of the RevComRule on studies conducted or supported by the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) that must also comply with FDA regulations.
Per 21CFR56, the Pre2018-ComRule, the RevComRule, and the G-IRBContRev, an EC has the authority to suspend or terminate approval of research that is not being conducted in accordance with the EC’s requirements or that has been associated with unexpected serious harm to participants. Any suspension or termination of approval will include a statement of the reasons for the EC’s action and will be reported promptly to the investigator, appropriate institutional officials, and the department or agency head (e.g., the FDA). See the G-IRBContRev for additional information and FDA recommendations on suspension or termination of EC approval.
21CFR56, the Pre2018-ComRule, and the RevComRule indicate that the FDA and HHS maintain a list of research categories that may be reviewed by an EC through an expedited review procedure (see the G-IRBExpdtdRev for the list). An EC may use the expedited review procedure to review the following:
- Some or all of the research appearing on the list and found by the reviewer(s) to involve no more than minimal risk
- Minor changes in previously approved research during the period (of one (1) year or less) for which approval is authorized
- Under the RevComRule, research for which limited EC review is a condition of exemption
21CFR56, the Pre2018-ComRule, and the RevComRule specify that under an expedited review procedure, the review may be carried out by the EC chairperson or by one (1) or more experienced reviewers designated by the chairperson from among the EC’s members. In reviewing the research, the reviewers may exercise all of the authorities of the EC except that the reviewers may not disapprove the research. A research activity may be disapproved only after review in accordance with the EC’s non-expedited review procedure.
Continuing Review and Re-approval
21CFR56 and the G-IRBContRev state that any clinical investigation must not be initiated unless the reviewed and approved study remains subject to continuing review at intervals appropriate to the degree of risk, but not less than once a year. The G-IRBContRev notes that when continuing review of the research does not occur prior to the end of the approval period specified by the EC, EC approval expires automatically. A lapse in EC approval of research occurs whenever an investigator has failed to provide continuing review information to the EC, or the EC has not conducted continuing review and re-approved the research by the expiration date of the EC approval. In such circumstances, all research activities involving human participants must stop. Enrollment of new participants cannot occur after the expiration of EC approval.
In addition, per the G-IRBContRev, research that qualified for expedited review at the time of initial review will generally continue to qualify for expedited continuing review. For additional information and FDA recommendations regarding continuing review, see the G-IRBContRev.
The Pre2018-ComRule similarly indicates that the EC must conduct reviews at intervals appropriate to the degree of risk, but not less than once per year. However, the RevComRule provides the following exceptions to the continuing review requirement, unless an EC determines otherwise:
- Research eligible for expedited review
- Research reviewed by the EC in accordance with the limited EC review described in Section 46.104 of the RevComRule
- Research that has progressed to the point that it involves data analysis and/or accessing follow-up clinical data from procedures that are part of clinical care
Exemptions under the Revised Common Rule
Per the RevComRule, certain categories of research are exempt from EC review, and some “exempt” activities require limited EC review or broad consent. Users should refer to Section 46.104 of the RevComRule for detailed information on research categories specifically exempt from EC review, or exempt activities requiring limited EC review or broad consent.
Per USA-54, for secondary research that does not qualify for an exemption under the RevComRule, the applicant must either apply for a waiver of the informed consent requirement from the EC, obtain study-specific informed consent, or obtain broad consent.
Further, the RevComRule modifies what constitutes research to specifically exclude the following types of research:
- Scholarly and journalistic activities
- Public health surveillance activities authorized by a public health authority to assess onsets of disease outbreaks or conditions of public health importance
- Collection and analysis of information, biospecimens, or records by or for a criminal justice agency for criminal investigative activities
- Authorized operational activities in support of intelligence, homeland security, defense, or other national security missions
See the G-IRBFAQs, the G-OHRP-IRBApprvl, and USA-54 for frequently asked questions regarding EC procedures, approval with conditions, example research, expedited review, limited review, and continuing review.
An EC may review studies that are not performed on-site. When an institution has a local EC, the written procedures of that EC or of the institution should define the scope of studies subject to review by that EC. A non-local EC may not become the EC of record for studies within that defined scope unless the local EC or the administration of the institution agree. Any agreement to allow review by a non-local EC should be in writing. For more information, see G-IRBReview.
Cooperative Research Studies
In the event of multicenter clinical studies, also known as cooperative research studies, taking place at US institutions that are subject to the RevComRule, the institutions must rely on a single EC to review that study for the portion of the study conducted in the US. The reviewing EC will be identified by the Common Rule department/agency (as identified in USA-65) supporting or conducting the research or proposed by the lead institution subject to the acceptance of the department/agency. The exceptions to this requirement include: when multicenter review is required by law (including tribal law) or for research where any federal department or agency supporting or conducting the research determines that the use of a single EC is not appropriate.
Designed to complement the RevComRule, per the NIHNotice16-094 and the NIHNotice17-076, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued a final policy requiring all institute-funded multicenter clinical trials conducted in the US to be overseen by a single EC, unless prohibited by any federal, tribal, or state law, regulation, or policy.
For more information on multicenter research, see G-CoopRes. For more information on how new sites added to ongoing cooperative research can follow the same version of the Common Rule, see G-ComRuleCnsstncy.
Ethics Committee > Ethics Committee Fees
Many institutional ethics committees (ECs) (referred to as institutional review boards (IRBs) in the United States (US)) charge fees to review research proposals submitted by industry-sponsored research or other for-profit entities. However, this varies widely by institution. Neither the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) nor the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulate institutional EC review fees. Because each EC has its own requirements, individual ECs should be contacted to confirm their specific fees.
Ethics Committee > Oversight of Ethics Committees
As delineated in 21CFR56 and 45CFR46-B-E, the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) and the HHS’ Food & Drug Administration (FDA) have mandatory registration programs for institutional ethics committee (ECs), referred to as institutional review boards (IRBs) in the United States (US). A single electronic registration system (USA-28) for both agencies is maintained by HHS’ Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP).
Per the RevComRule, which took effect January 21, 2019, for non-exempt research (or exempt research that requires limited EC review) reviewed by an EC not operated by the institution doing the research, the institution and the EC must document the institution's reliance on the EC for research oversight and the responsibilities that each entity will undertake to ensure compliance with the RevComRule. Compliance can be achieved in a variety of ways, such as a written agreement between the institution and a specific EC, through the research protocol, or by implementing an institution-wide policy directive that allocates responsibilities between the institution and all ECs not operated by the institution. Such documentation must be part of the EC’s records. The G-HHS-Inst-Engagemt can help an institution to determine if a research study can be classified as non-exempt.
Registration, Auditing, and Accreditation
In accordance with the G-IRBReg-FAQs and USA-61, EC registration with the HHS OHRP system (USA-28) is not a form of accreditation or certification by either the FDA that the EC is in full compliance with 21CFR56, or by the HHS that the EC is in full compliance with 45CFR46-B-E. Neither EC competence nor expertise is assessed during the registration review process by either agency.
Food & Drug Administration
According to 21CFR56 and the G-IRBReg-FAQs, the FDA requires each EC in the US, that either reviews clinical investigations regulated by the agency under the FDCAct or reviews investigations intended to support research or marketing permits for agency-regulated products, to register electronically in the HHS OHRP system (USA-28). Only individuals authorized to act on the EC’s behalf are permitted to submit registration information. Non-US ECs may register voluntarily. The G-IRBReg-FAQs also indicates that while registration of non-US ECs is voluntary, the information the FDA receives from them is very helpful.
As stated in 21CFR56 and the G-IRBReg-FAQs, any EC not already registered in the HHS OHRP system (USA-28) must submit an initial registration prior to reviewing a clinical investigation in support of an investigational new drug application (IND). The HHS OHRP system (USA-28) provides instructions to assist users, depending on whether the EC is subject to regulation by only the OHRP, only the FDA, or both the OHRP and the FDA.
21CFR56 and the G-IRBReg-FAQs indicate that FDA EC registration must be renewed every three (3) years. EC registration becomes effective after review and acceptance by the HHS.
See 21CFR56 and the G-IRBReg-FAQs for detailed EC registration submission requirements. See the G-IRBInspect for FDA inspection procedures of ECs.
Office for Human Research Protections
Per the Pre2018-ComRule and RevComRule, institutions engaging in research conducted or supported by a Common Rule department/agency (as identified in USA-65) must obtain an approved assurance that it will comply with the Pre2018-ComRule or RevComRule requirements and certify to the department/agency heads that the research has been reviewed and approved by an EC provided for in the assurance.
Per USA-59, a Federalwide Assurance (FWA) of compliance is a document submitted by an institution (not an EC) engaged in non-exempt human subjects research conducted or supported by HHS that commits the institution to complying with Pre2018-ComRule or RevComRule requirements. FWAs also are approved by the OHRP for federalwide use, which means that other federal departments and agencies that have adopted the Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects (Pre2018-ComRule or RevComRule) may rely on the FWA for the research that they conduct or support. Institutions engaging in research conducted or supported by non-HHS federal departments or agencies should consult with the sponsoring department or agency for guidance regarding whether the FWA is appropriate for the research in question.
Per USA-54, institutions do not need to change an existing FWA because of the RevComRule. See USA-57 for more information on FWAs.
Per 45CFR46-B-E and USA-61, all ECs that review human subjects research conducted or supported by HHS and are to be designated under an OHRP FWA must register electronically with the HHS OHRP system (USA-28). An individual authorized to act on behalf of the institution operating the EC must submit the registration information. EC registration becomes effective for three (3) years when reviewed and approved by OHRP.
Per USA-59, an institution must either register its own EC (an “internal” EC) or designate an already registered EC operated by another organization (“external” EC) after establishing a written agreement with that other organization. Additionally, each FWA must designate at least one (1) EC registered with the OHRP. The FWA is the only type of assurance of compliance accepted and approved by the OHRP.
See 45CFR46-B-E, USA-58, and USA-61 for detailed registration requirements and instructions.
Clinical Trial Lifecycle > Submission Process
As delineated in 21CFR312, USA-42, and USA-52, the United States (US) requires the sponsor to submit an investigational new drug application (IND) for the Food & Drug Administration (FDA)'s review and authorization to obtain an exemption to ship investigational drug or biological products across state lines and to administer these investigational products in humans. Per 21CFR312 and the G-IND-Determination, whether an IND is required to conduct an investigation of a drug to be marketed (this includes biological products under the FDCAct) primarily depends on the intent of the investigation, and the degree of risk associated with the use of the drug in the investigation. See the Scope of Assessment section for more information.
In addition, per 21CFR56 and 21CFR312, institutional ethics committee (EC) (institutional review board (IRB) in the US) review of the clinical investigation may be conducted in parallel with the FDA review of the IND. However, EC approval must be obtained prior to the sponsor being permitted to initiate the clinical trial.
According to 21CFR312, meetings between a sponsor and the FDA may be useful in resolving questions and issues raised during the course of a clinical investigation. The FDA encourages such meetings to the extent that they aid in the evaluation of the drug and in the solution of scientific problems concerning the drug, to the degree the FDA's resources permit. See 21CFR312 for more information on meetings with the FDA.
A sponsor who is conducting a clinical trial to support a future marketing application may ask to meet with the FDA for a special protocol assessment (SPA) to help ensure the clinical trial can support the application. For more information, see G-SPA.
Additionally, the G-FDAComm describes the FDA’s philosophy regarding timely interactive communication with IND sponsors, the scope of appropriate interactions between review teams and sponsors, the types of advice appropriate for sponsors to seek from the FDA in pursuing their drug development programs, and general expectations for the timing of FDA response to sponsor inquiries. See the G-FDAComm for more information.
According to USA-41 and USA-94, paper submissions of INDs should be sent to the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) or Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER) at the following locations, as appropriate:
Drugs (submitted by Sponsor-Investigators):
Food and Drug Administration
Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER)
Central Document Room
5901-B Ammendale Rd.
Beltsville, MD 20705-1266
Therapeutic Biological Product (submitted by Sponsor-Investigators):
Food and Drug Administration
Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER)
Therapeutic Biological Products Document Room
5901-B Ammendale Rd.
Beltsville, MD 20705-1266
Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research-Regulated Products:
Food and Drug Administration
Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER)
Document Control Center
10903 New Hampshire Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20993-0002
Based on information provided in 21CFR312, for paper IND submissions, the sponsor must submit an original and two (2) copies, including the original submission and all amendments and reports.
According to the G-PharmeCTD, which implements section 745A(a) of the FDCAct, and as described in USA-34 and USA-53, commercial IND submissions must be submitted in the Electronic Common Technical Document (eCTD) format. Noncommercial INDs are exempt from this eCTD format submission requirement. “Noncommercial products” refer to products not intended to be distributed commercially, including investigator-sponsored INDs and expanded access INDs (e.g., emergency use and treatment INDs). However, the G-AltrntElecSubs indicates that sponsors and applicants who receive an exemption or a waiver from filing in eCTD format should still provide those exempted or waived submissions electronically, in an alternate format.
The G-AltrntElecSubs and USA-35 indicate that for both eCTD and alternate electronic formats, submissions should include only FDA fillable forms and electronic signatures. Scanned images of FDA fillable forms should not be submitted. In addition, before making an electronic submission, a pre-assigned application number should be obtained by contacting CDER or CBER. See USA-35 for more information on requesting an application number.
For more information and detailed requirements on eCTD submissions, see the G-PharmeCTD, the G-eCTDTech, USA-35, and USA-36. Additionally, the G-CBER-ElecINDs provides instructions on how to submit an IND using an electronic folder structure on a CD-ROM.
According to the G-eCTDspecs and USA-7, eCTD submissions sized 10 GB and under for most applications must be submitted via the FDA Electronic Submissions Gateway (ESG) (USA-44). However, the G-eCTDspecs adds that the FDA also recommends the use of USA-44 for submissions greater than 10 GB when possible. See USA-8 for information on how to create an account.
As indicated in the G-eCTDspecs, physical media greater than 10 GB should be submitted using a USB drive. For specific instructions on how to submit physical media, email CDER at firstname.lastname@example.org or CBER at email@example.com. See the G-eCTDspecs for additional physical media information.
The IND must be submitted in English. As indicated in 21CFR312, the sponsor must submit an accurate and complete English translation of each part of the IND that is not in English. The sponsor must also submit a copy of each original literature publication for which an English translation is submitted.
For more information on CDER and CBER internal policies and procedures for accepting and reviewing applications, see USA-96 and USA-95, respectively.
Ethics Review Submission
Each EC maintains its own procedures and processes for review. Consequently, there is no stated regulatory requirement for clinical trial submission processes.
Clinical Trial Lifecycle > Submission Content
Regulatory Authority Requirements
As specified in 21CFR312, an investigational new drug application (IND) to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) must include the following documents, in the order provided below:
- Cover sheet (Form FDA 1571 (USA-76)) (including, but not limited to: sponsor contact information, investigational product (IP) name, application date, phase(s) of clinical investigation to be conducted, and commitment that the institutional ethics committee (EC) (institutional review board (IRB) in the United States (US)) will conduct initial and continuing review and approval of each study proposed in the investigation)
- Table of contents
- Introductory statement and general investigational plan
- Investigator’s brochure (IB)
- Chemistry, manufacturing, and control data
- Pharmacology and toxicology data
- Previous human experience with the IP
- Additional information (e.g., drug dependence and abuse potential, radioactive drugs, pediatric studies)
- Relevant information (e.g., foreign language materials and number of copies - see Submission Process section for details)
For detailed application requirements, see 21CFR312. In addition, see USA-40 for other IND forms and instructions.
Furthermore, for information on the appropriate use of adaptive designs for clinical trials and additional information to provide to the FDA to support its review, see G-AdaptiveTrials.
The G-RWDRWE states that to facilitate the FDA’s internal tracking of submissions that include real-world data (RWD) and real-world evidence (RWE), sponsors and applicants are encouraged to identify in their submission cover letters certain uses of RWD/RWE. For more information, see the G-RWDRWE.
According to G-PedStudyPlans, a sponsor who is planning to submit to the FDA a marketing application (or supplement to an application) for a new active ingredient, new indication, new dosage form, new dosing regimen, or new route of administration is required to submit an initial pediatric study plan (iPSP), if required by the Pediatric Research Equity Act (PREA). An exception to this is if the drug is for an indication granted an orphan designation. For additional details and recommendations to sponsors regarding the submission of an iPSP, see G-PedStudyPlans.
Ethics Committee Requirements
Each EC has its own application form and clearance requirements, which can differ significantly regarding application content requirements. However, the requirements listed below comply with 21CFR56 as well as the US-ICH-GCPs and are basically consistent across all US ECs.
As per 21CFR56, the Pre2018-ComRule, the RevComRule, and the US-ICH-GCPs, the EC should obtain the following documents and must ensure the listed requirements are met prior to approving the study (Note: The regulations provide overlapping and unique elements so each of the items listed below will not necessarily be in each source):
- Clinical protocol
- Informed consent forms (ICFs) and participant information (the RevComRule also requires information regarding whether informed consent was appropriately sought and documented, or waived)
- Participant recruitment procedures
- Safety information
- Participant payments and compensation
- Investigator(s) current Curriculum Vitaes (CVs)
- Additional required EC documentation
- Risks to participants are minimized and are reasonable in relation to anticipated benefits
- Participant selection is equitable
- Adequate provisions are made to protect participant privacy and maintain confidentiality of data, where appropriate; the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) will issue guidance to assist ECs in assessing what provisions are adequate to protect participant privacy and maintain the confidentiality of data
Per the RevComRule, which took effect January 21, 2019, where limited EC review applies, the EC does not need to make the determinations outlined above. Rather, limited EC review includes determinations that broad consent will be/was obtained properly, that adequate protections are in place for safeguarding the privacy and confidentiality of participants, and (for secondary studies) that individual research results will not be returned to participants.
See 21CFR56, the Pre2018-ComRule, the RevComRule, and section 3 of the US-ICH-GCPs for additional EC submission requirements.
According to the US-ICH-GCPs, the clinical protocol should contain the following elements:
- General information
- Background information
- Trial objectives and purpose
- Trial design
- Participant selection/withdrawal
- Participant treatment
- Efficacy assessment
- Safety assessment
- Direct access to source data/documents
- Quality control/quality assurance
- Data handling/recordkeeping
- Publication policy
- For complete protocol requirements, see section 6 of the US-ICH-GCPs.
Per the NIHNotice17-064, and provided in USA-29 and USA-27, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the FDA developed a clinical trial protocol template with instructional and example text for NIH-funded investigators to use when writing protocols for phase 2 and 3 clinical trials that require IND applications.
Clinical Trial Lifecycle > Timeline of Review
As delineated in 21CFR56 and 21CFR312, institutional ethics committee (EC) (institutional review board (IRB) in the United States (US)) review of the clinical investigation may be conducted in parallel with the Food & Drug Administration (FDA)'s review of the investigational new drug application (IND). However, EC approval must be obtained prior to the sponsor being permitted to initiate the clinical trial.
Regulatory Authority Approval
Per the FDCAct and 21CFR312, initial INDs submitted to the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) or Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER) automatically go into effect in 30 calendar days, unless the FDA notifies the sponsor that the IND is subject to a clinical hold, or the FDA has notified the sponsor earlier that the trial may begin. As indicated in 21CFR312, the FDA will provide the sponsor with a written explanation of the basis for the hold as soon as possible, and no more than 30 days after the imposition of the clinical hold. See 21CFR312 for more information on clinical hold timelines.
According to USA-41 and USA-42, clinical studies must not be initiated until 30 days after the FDA receives the IND, unless the FDA provides earlier notification that studies may begin.
Ethics Committee Approval
Each EC maintains its own procedures and processes for review. Consequently, there is no stated regulatory requirement for a standard timeline of review and approval of the clinical trial. However, according to the US-ICH-GCPs, the institutional EC should review a proposed clinical trial within a reasonable time.
Clinical Trial Lifecycle > Initiation, Agreements & Registration
In accordance with 21CFR312, USA-41, and USA-42, a clinical trial can only commence after the investigational new drug application (IND) is reviewed by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), which will provide a written determination within 30 days of receiving the IND. No waiting period is required following the 30-day FDA review period, unless the agency imposes a clinical hold on the IND or sends an earlier notification that studies may begin. Per 21CFR312 and 21CFR56, ethics approval from an institutional ethics committee (EC) (known as institutional review board (IRB) in the United States (US)) is also required before a clinical trial can commence.
As per 21CFR312, once an IND has been submitted and following the 30-day review period, the sponsor is permitted to import an investigational product (IP). (See the Manufacturing & Import section for additional information).
See the G-CTDiversity for FDA recommendations to sponsors on increasing enrollment of underrepresented populations in their clinical trials.
Clinical Trial Agreement
Prior to the trial’s commencement, as addressed in the 21CFR312 and the G-1572FAQs, the sponsor must obtain from the investigator(s) a signed Statement of Investigator, Form FDA 1572 (USA-77). This form serves as the investigator’s agreement to provide certain information to the sponsor and to ensure compliance with the FDA’s clinical investigation regulations. Refer to the 21CFR312, the G-1572FAQs, and USA-40 for further information.
The US-ICH-GCPs indicates that the sponsor must obtain the investigator’s/institution’s agreement:
- To conduct the trial in compliance with good clinical practice (GCP), with the applicable regulatory requirement(s), and with the protocol agreed to by the sponsor and given approval/favorable opinion by the EC;
- To comply with procedures for data recording/reporting;
- To permit monitoring, auditing, and inspection; and
- To retain the trial-related essential documents until the sponsor informs the investigator/institution these documents are no longer needed.
The sponsor and the investigator/institution must sign the protocol, or an alternative document, to confirm this agreement.
Clinical Trial Registration
The FDAMA, the FDAAA, and 42CFR11 require the responsible party, either the sponsor or the principal investigator (PI) designated by the sponsor, to register electronically with the ClinicalTrials.gov databank (USA-78). Per the FDAAA, 42CFR11, and USA-26, the sponsor/PI must register no later than 21 calendar days after the first human participant is enrolled in a trial.
42CFR11 expands the legal requirements for submitting clinical trial registration information and results for investigational products that are approved, licensed, or cleared by the FDA.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued NIHTrialInfo to complement 42CFR11 requirements. This policy requires all NIH-funded awardees and investigators conducting clinical trials, funded in whole or in part by the NIH, regardless of study phase, type of intervention, or whether they are subject to the regulation, to ensure that they register and submit trial results to ClinicalTrials.gov (USA-78).
See 42CFR11, the NIHTrialInfo, USA-26, and USA-49 for detailed information on ClinicalTrials.gov (USA-78). See also the G-DataBankPnlty for clarification on the types of civil money penalties that may be issued for failing to register a clinical trial.
Clinical Trial Lifecycle > Safety Reporting
Safety Reporting Definitions
In accordance with 21CFR312, the G-IND-Safety, 42CFR11, and USA-38, the following definitions provide a basis for a common understanding of safety reporting requirements in the United States (US):
- Adverse Event (AE) – Any untoward medical occurrence associated with the use of a drug in humans, whether or not considered drug related
- Adverse Reaction (AR) – Any AE caused by a drug. ARs are a subset of all suspected adverse reactions where there is reason to conclude that the drug caused the event
- Serious Adverse Event/Serious Suspected Adverse Reaction (SAE/SSAR) – An AE/SAR that results in death, is life-threatening, requires inpatient hospitalization or prolongation of existing hospitalization, causes persistent or significant disability/incapacity, results in a congenital anomaly/birth defect, or leads to a substantial disruption of the participant’s ability to conduct normal life functions
- Suspected Adverse Reaction (SAR) – Any AE where there is a reasonable possibility that the drug caused the AE
- Unexpected AE/Unexpected SAR – An AE or SAR that is not listed in the investigator’s brochure (IB), or is not listed at the specificity or severity that has been observed; or if an IB is not required or available, is not consistent with the risk information described in the general investigational plan or elsewhere in the application
- Life-threatening AE/Life-threatening SAR – An AE/SAR is considered “life-threatening” if its occurrence places the participant at immediate risk of death. It does not include an AE/SAR that, had it occurred in a more severe form, might have caused death
According to the G-HHS-AEReqs, the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) does not define or use the terms “adverse event” or “unanticipated problems.” However, the Pre2018-ComRule and the RevComRule do contain requirements relevant to reviewing and reporting these incidents. See the G-HHS-AEReqs, the G-IRBRpting, the Pre2018-ComRule, and the RevComRule for further information.
Safety Reporting Requirements
As delineated in 21CFR312 and the G-IND-Safety, the investigator must comply with the following reporting requirements:
- SAEs, whether or not considered drug related, must be reported immediately to the sponsor
- Study endpoints that are SAEs must be reported in accordance with the protocol unless there is evidence suggesting a causal relationship between the drug and the event. In that case, the investigator must immediately report the event to the sponsor
- Non-serious AEs must be recorded and reported to the sponsor according to the protocol specified timetable
- Report promptly to the institutional ethics committee (EC) (institutional review boards (IRBs) in the US) all unanticipated problems involving risk to human participants or others where AEs should be considered unanticipated problems
As delineated in 21CFR312, the G-IND-Safety, and USA-38, the sponsor must report any SAR/AR that is both serious and unexpected. An AE must only be reported as a SAR if there is evidence to suggest a causal relationship between the drug and the AE.
The sponsor is required to notify the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and all participating investigators in a written safety report of potential serious risks, from clinical trials or any other source, as soon as possible, but no later than 15 calendar days after the sponsor determines the information qualifies for reporting. Additionally, the sponsor must notify the FDA of any unexpected fatal or life-threatening SAR as soon as possible, but no later than seven (7) calendar days following receipt of the information. The sponsor is required to submit a follow-up safety report to provide additional information obtained pertaining to a previously submitted safety report. This report should be submitted without delay, as soon as the information is available, but no later than 15 calendar days after the sponsor initially receives the information.
Per 21CFR312 and the G-IND-Safety, the sponsor must also report the following:
- Any findings from epidemiological studies, pooled analyses of multiple studies, or clinical studies (other than those reported in the safety report), whether or not conducted under an investigational new drug application (IND), and whether or not conducted by the sponsor, that suggest a significant risk in humans exposed to the drug
- Any findings from animal or in vitro testing, whether or not conducted by the sponsor, that suggest a significant risk in humans exposed to the drug
- Any clinically important increase in the rate of an SSAR over that listed in the protocol or IB
In each safety report, the sponsor must identify all safety reports previously submitted to the FDA concerning a similar SAR and must analyze the significance of the SAR in light of previous, similar reports, or any other relevant information. Refer to 21CFR312 and the G-IND-Safety for more details on these safety reporting requirements.
As part of the clinical trial results information submitted to ClinicalTrials.gov (USA-78), 42CFR11 requires the responsible party, either the sponsor or the principal investigator (PI) designated by the sponsor, to submit three (3) tables of AE/adverse drug reaction (ADR) information. The tables should consist of the following summarized data:
- All SAEs/serious adverse drug reactions (SADRs)
- Other AEs/ADRs that exceed a frequency of five (5) percent in any arm of the trial
- All-cause mortalities
Per 42CFR11 and USA-70, this information must be submitted no later than one (1) year after the primary completion date of the clinical trial. Submission of trial results may be delayed as long as two (2) years if the sponsor or PI submits a certification to ClinicalTrials.gov (USA-78) that either: 1) the FDA has not yet approved, licensed, or cleared for marketing the investigational product (IP) being studied; or 2) the manufacturer is the sponsor and has sought or will seek approval within one (1) year.
See 42CFR11 for detailed AE/ADR reporting requirements.
Form Completion and Delivery Requirements
As per 21CFR312, the G-IND-Safety, and USA-38, the sponsor must submit each safety report in a narrative format on Form FDA 3500A (USA-75), or in an electronic format that the FDA can process, review, and archive, and be accompanied by Form FDA 1571 (USA-76) (cover sheet).
As per the G-IND-Safety and USA-38, the submission must be identified as follows:
- “IND safety report” for 15-day reports
- “7-day IND safety report” for unexpected fatal or life-threatening SAR reports
- “Follow-up IND safety report” for follow-up information
The report must be submitted to the appropriate review division (i.e., Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) or Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER)). Per USA-38, the FDA recommends that sponsors submit safety reports electronically. Other means of rapid communication to the respective review division’s Regulatory Project Manager (e.g., telephone, facsimile transmission, email) may also be used.
Additionally, 21CFR312 and the G-IND-Safety indicate that the FDA will accept foreign SAR reports on CIOMS Form I (See USA-13 and USA-3) instead of Form FDA 3500A (USA-75). See USA-38 and USA-48 for additional information.
Clinical Trial Lifecycle > Progress Reporting
Interim and Annual Progress Reports
As per the US-ICH-GCPs, the investigator should promptly provide written reports to the sponsor and the institutional ethics committee (EC) (institutional review board (IRB) in the United States (US)) on any changes significantly affecting the conduct of the trial, and/or increasing the risk to participants.
As specified in 21CFR312, the investigator must furnish all reports to the sponsor who is responsible for collecting and evaluating the results obtained. In addition, per 21CFR56 and the US-ICH-GCPs the investigator should submit written summaries of the trial status to the institutional EC annually, or more frequently, if requested by the institutional EC.
21CFR312 states that the sponsor must submit a brief annual progress report on the investigation to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) within 60 days of the anniversary date that the investigational new drug went into effect. The report must contain the following information for each study:
- Title, purpose, and description of patient population, and current status
- Summary of the participants screened (e.g., failed screenings; participants enrolled, withdrawn, or lost to follow-up; and other challenges)
- Summary information - including information obtained during the previous year’s clinical and nonclinical investigations
- Description of the general investigational plan for the coming year
- Updated investigator’s brochure, if revised
- Description of any significant Phase 1 protocol modifications not previously reported in a protocol amendment
- Brief summary of significant foreign marketing developments with the drug
- A log of any outstanding business for which the sponsor requests a reply, comment, or meeting
As indicated in 42CFR11, trial updates must be submitted to ClinicalTrials.gov (USA-78) according to the following guidelines:
- Not less than once every 12 months for updated general trial registration information
- Not later than 30 calendar days for any changes in overall recruitment status
- Not later than 30 calendar days after the trial reaches its actual primary completion date, the date the final participant was examined or received an intervention for the purposes of final collection data for the primary outcome
As indicated in 21CFR312, an investigator must provide the sponsor with an adequate report shortly after completion of the investigator’s participation in the investigation. There is no specific timeframe stipulated for when the report should be completed.
The US-ICH-GCPs also states that upon the trial’s completion, the investigator should inform the institution and the investigator/institution should provide the EC with a summary of the trial’s outcome, and supply the FDA with any additional report(s) required of the investigator/institution.
Additionally, per 42CFR11 and USA-70, the sponsor or the principal investigator (PI) designated by the sponsor must submit results for applicable investigational product (IP) clinical trials to USA-78 no later than one (1) year following the study’s completion date. Submission of trial results may be delayed as long as two (2) years if the sponsor or PI submits a certification to USA-78 that indicates either: 1) the FDA has not yet approved, licensed, or cleared the IP being studied for marketing; or 2) the manufacturer is the sponsor and has sought or will seek approval within one (1) year. The results information must include data on the following:
- Participant flow
- Demographic and baseline characteristics
- Outcomes and statistical analysis
- Adverse events
- The protocol and statistical analysis plan
- Administrative information
See USA-49 for more information and 42CFR11 for more detailed requirements. See NIHTrialInfo for specific information on dissemination of NIH-funded clinical trial data.
Sponsorship > Definition of Sponsor
As per 21CFR312, 21CFR50, and the US-ICH-GCPs, a sponsor is defined as a person who takes responsibility for and initiates a clinical investigation. The sponsor may be an individual or pharmaceutical company, governmental agency, academic institution, private organization, or other organization. The sponsor does not actually conduct the investigation unless the sponsor is a sponsor-investigator. 21CFR312, 21CFR50, and the US-ICH-GCPs define a sponsor-investigator as an individual who both initiates and conducts an investigation, and under whose immediate direction the investigational product is administered or dispensed.
In addition, 21CFR312 and the US-ICH-GCPs state that a sponsor may transfer responsibility for any or all of his/her obligations to a contract research organization (CRO).
Any trial-related responsibilities transferred to and assumed by a CRO should be specified in writing, and those obligations not covered by the written description will be deemed not to have been transferred. Further, a CRO that assumes any sponsor obligations must comply with the specific regulations delineated in 21CFR312 and will be subject to the same regulatory action as the sponsor for failure to comply with any obligation assumed under these regulations. However, per the US-ICH-GCPs, although a sponsor may transfer all of his/her trial-related duties and functions to a CRO, he/she is ultimately responsible for the study data’s quality and integrity.
As indicated in 21CFR312, a sponsor may be either domestic or foreign.
Sponsorship > Site/Investigator Selection
As set forth in 21CFR312 and the US-ICH-GCPs, the sponsor is responsible for selecting the investigator(s) and the institution(s) for the clinical trial and for ensuring that the investigator(s) are qualified by training and experience. Prior to permitting an investigator(s) to conduct a study, the sponsor must obtain the following:
- Signed investigator’s statement (Form FDA 1572 (USA-77))
- Curriculum vitae
- Clinical protocol
- Financial disclosure information
As addressed in the G-1572FAQs, Form FDA 1572 (USA-77) serves as the investigator’s agreement to provide certain information to the sponsor and to assure compliance with the Food & Drug Administration (FDA)'s clinical investigation regulations. Refer to the G-1572FAQs and USA-40 for further information.
In addition, prior to the start of the study, the sponsor must provide the investigator(s) with the protocol and the investigator’s brochure.
See G-InvstgtrResp for more information on investigator responsibilities.
Foreign Sponsor Responsibilities
No information is currently available.
Data and Safety Monitoring Board
As per 21CFR50 and the G-DMCs, Data and Safety Monitoring Boards (DSMBs), (also known as a Data Monitoring Committees (DMCs)), are not required by FDA regulations, except in the case of research conducted in emergency settings in which fulfilling the informed consent requirement is unfeasible. In this case, as stated in 21CFR50, the FDA requires the establishment of an independent data monitoring committee to exercise oversight of the clinical investigation. See the G-DMCs for FDA recommendations on DSMB/DMC establishment.
Additionally, the Pre2018-ComRule and the RevComRule indicate that for all human subjects research funded and/or sponsored by the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), the institutional ethics committee (EC) (institutional review board (IRB) in the United States (US)) must ensure that, when appropriate, the research plan makes adequate provisions for monitoring the data collected during the study to ensure participant safety. Moreover, per the NIHDataSftyMntrng and USA-72, all National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded clinical trials require a Data and Safety Monitoring Plan and monitoring should be commensurate with risk. DSMBs are also required for multi-site clinical trials with interventions that involve potential participant risk. See the NIHDataSftyMntrng and USA-72 for detailed HHS/NIH requirements.
Although not specified as a sponsor requirement, the US-ICH-GCPs states that a DSMB may be established to assess the progress of a clinical trial, including the safety data and the critical efficacy endpoints at intervals, and to recommend to the sponsor whether to continue, modify, or stop a trial.
In the event of multicenter clinical studies, also known as cooperative research studies, which are required to comply with the RevComRule, all federally-funded or sponsored institutions that are located in the US and engaged in multicenter research must use a single EC to review that study. See the Scope of Review section and G-CoopRes for additional information.
The US-ICH-GCPs indicates that in the event of a multicenter clinical trial, the sponsor must ensure that:
- All investigators conduct the trial in strict compliance with the protocol agreed to by the sponsor, and given EC approval
- The case report forms (CRFs) are designed to capture the required data at all multicenter trial sites
- Investigator responsibilities are documented prior to the start of the trial
- All investigators are given instructions on following the protocol, complying with a uniform set of standards to assess clinical and laboratory findings, and completing the CRFs
- Communication among investigators is facilitated
See US-ICH-E17 for additional FDA guidance related to multi-regional clinical trials.
Sponsorship > Insurance & Compensation
The United States (US) regulations do not require insurance.
The G-IRBFAQs state that institutional policy, not Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulation, determines whether compensation and medical treatment(s) will be offered and the conditions that might be placed on participant eligibility for compensation or treatment(s).
Injury or Death
According to the US-ICH-GCPs, the sponsor's policies and procedures should address the costs of treatment of trial subjects in the event of trial-related injuries in accordance with the applicable regulatory requirement(s).
As specified in 21CFR50, the Pre2018-ComRule, the RevComRule, and US-ICH-GCPs, for research involving more than minimal risk, participants must be informed as to whether any compensation or medical treatments are available in the event of trial-related injuries. See the Required Elements section for additional information.
As per the G-SbjctPayment, compensation for participation is considered a recruitment incentive and not a benefit, and is often offered when the participant’s health benefits are remote or non-existent. Payment amounts and schedules should be presented to the ethics committee (EC) (institutional review board (IRB) in the US) at the time of the initial review. The EC should ensure the payment amount and the proposed method and timing of disbursement are not coercive or present undue influence and are also included in the informed consent document. Payment to participants who withdraw may be made at the time that they would have completed the study. While the entire payment should not be contingent upon completion of the entire study, a small payment provided as an incentive for completion is acceptable to the FDA. Further, the FDA does not consider reimbursement for travel expenses to and from the clinical trial site and associated costs such as airfare, parking, and lodging to raise issues regarding undue influence.
Sponsorship > Risk & Quality Management
Quality Assurance/Quality Control
Per the US-ICH-GCPs, the sponsor should implement a system to manage quality throughout all stages of the trial process, focusing on trial activities essential to ensuring participant protection and the reliability of trial results. The quality management system should use a risk-based approach that includes:
- During protocol development, identify processes and data that are critical to ensure participant protection and the reliability of trial results
- Identify risks to critical trial processes and data
- Evaluate the identified risks, against existing risk controls
- Decide which risks to reduce and/or which risks to accept
- Document quality management activities and communicate to those involved in or affected by these activities
- Periodically review risk control measures to ascertain whether the implemented quality management activities are effective and relevant
- In the clinical study report, describe the quality management approach implemented in the trial and summarize important deviations from the predefined quality tolerance limits and remedial actions taken
As stated in the US-ICH-GCPs, the sponsor is responsible for implementing and maintaining quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC) systems with written standard operating procedures (SOPs) to ensure that trials are conducted and data generated, recorded, and reported in compliance with the protocol, the US-ICH-GCPs, and the applicable regulatory requirements. The sponsor is responsible for obtaining agreement from all involved parties to ensure direct access to all trial related sites, source data/documents, reports for monitoring and auditing purposes, and inspection by domestic and foreign regulatory authorities. QC should be applied to each stage of data handling to ensure that all data are reliable and have been correctly processed. A written agreement must be signed by both the sponsor and the investigator or any other parties involved with the clinical trial, verifying that all parties agree to the trial protocol, the monitoring and auditing practices, the SOPs, and their respective duties.
As part of its QA system, the US-ICH-GCPs notes that the sponsor should ensure the trial is monitored and audited. The purpose of the audit should be to evaluate trial conduct and compliance with the protocol, SOPs, the US-ICH-GCPs, and other applicable regulatory requirements. The sponsor should appoint auditors to review the clinical trial. The sponsor should ensure that the auditors are qualified by training and experience, and the auditor’s qualifications should be documented. The sponsor must also ensure that the audit is conducted in accordance with his/her own SOPs and the auditor observations are documented. The sponsor should develop a systematic, prioritized, risk-based approach to monitoring clinical trials. The extent and nature of monitoring is flexible and permits varied approaches that improve effectiveness and efficiency. The sponsor may choose on-site monitoring, a combination of on-site and centralized monitoring, or where justified, centralized monitoring. The sponsor should document the rationale for the chosen monitoring strategy (e.g., in the monitoring plan).
According to the G-RiskMntrng, the FDA encourages sponsors to tailor monitoring plans to the needs of the trial. The agency also encourages greater use of centralized monitoring practices, where appropriate, with correspondingly less emphasis on on-site monitoring. Centralized monitoring techniques should be used to the extent appropriate and feasible to:
- Supplement or reduce the frequency and extent of on-site monitoring with monitoring activities that can be done as well or better remotely or with monitoring activities that can be accomplished using centralized processes only. Examples include monitoring data quality through routine review of submitted data, as well as completing administrative and regulatory tasks.
- Target on-site monitoring by identifying higher risk clinical sites (e.g., sites with data anomalies or a higher frequency of errors, protocol violations, or dropouts relative to other sites).
For more FDA guidance on a risk-based approach to monitoring, see the G-RiskMntrng.
Premature Study Termination/Suspension
As delineated in 21CFR312 and the US-ICH-GCPs, if the sponsor determines the study presents an unreasonable and significant risk to the participants, he/she must discontinue the study as soon as possible, and no later than five (5) working days after making the determination. The sponsor must also notify the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), all ethics committees (ECs) (institutional review boards (IRBs) in the United States (US)), and all investigators who have participated in the study about the termination. Additionally, the sponsor must ensure the disposition of all remaining drugs and provide the FDA with a full report on his/her actions.
According to the US-ICH-GCPs, if it is discovered that noncompliance significantly affects or has the potential to significantly affect participant protection or reliability of trial results, the sponsor should perform a root cause analysis and implement appropriate corrective and preventive actions. Further, the EC should also be informed promptly and provided the reason(s) for the termination or suspension by the sponsor.
21CFR312 indicates that if the FDA terminates an investigational new drug application (IND) based on deficiencies in the IND or in the conduct of an investigation under an IND, the sponsor must end all clinical investigations conducted under the IND and recall or otherwise provide for the disposition of all unused supplies of the drug. See 21CFR312 for more information on FDA termination.
Sponsorship > Data & Records Management
Electronic Data Processing System
Per the US-ICH-GCPs, when using electronic trial data handling processing systems, the sponsor must ensure and document that the electronic data processing system conforms to the sponsor’s established requirements for completeness, accuracy, reliability, and consistency of intended performance. To validate such systems, the sponsor should use a risk assessment approach that takes into consideration the system’s intended use and potential to affect human subject protection and reliability of trial results. In addition, the sponsor must maintain standard operating procedures (SOPs) that cover system setup, installation, and use. The SOPs should describe system validation and functionality testing, data collection and handling, system maintenance, system security measures, change control, data backup, recovery, contingency planning, and decommissioning. With respect to the use of these computerized systems, the responsibilities of the sponsor, investigator, and other parties should be clear, and the users should receive relevant training. Refer to the US-ICH-GCPs for additional information.
See G-eHealthRecords for guidance related to the use of electronic health records in clinical research.
As set forth in 21CFR312 and the US-ICH-GCPs, the sponsor must retain all sponsor-specific essential documents pertaining to the trial for at least two (2) years after a marketing application (known as a new drug application (NDA)) is approved for the drug; or if a NDA is not approved, until two (2) years after shipment and delivery of the drug for investigational use is discontinued and the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has been notified. The sponsor should also inform the investigator(s)/institution(s) in writing of the need for record retention and when the trial-related records are no longer needed. Additionally, per 21CFR312, the sponsor must upon request from the FDA, permit an officer or employee to access, copy, and verify any records and reports relating to the clinical investigation. Upon written request by the FDA, the sponsor must also submit the records or reports (or copies of them) to the agency.
In addition, the US-ICH-GCPs states that the sponsor and investigator/institution should maintain a record of the location(s) of their respective essential documents including source documents. The storage system used during the trial and for archiving (irrespective of the type of media used) should allow for document identification, version history, search, and retrieval. The sponsor should ensure that the investigator has control of and continuous access to the data reported to the sponsor. The investigator/institution should have control of all essential documents and records generated by the investigator/institution before, during, and after the trial.
Sponsorship > Personal Data Protection
As stated in USA-86, the HIPAA Privacy Rule establishes the conditions under which protected health information (PHI) may be used or disclosed by covered entities for research purposes (Per USA-87, the Privacy Rule is located at 45CFR160 and Subparts A and E of 45CFR164; see USA-87 for more information). The Privacy Rule builds upon protections, described in Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) (the Pre2018-ComRule and the RevComRule) and Food & Drug Administration (FDA) (21CFR50 and 21CFR56) regulations, that help ensure the privacy of participants and the confidentiality of information. (Please note: ClinRegs does not provide information on state level personal data protection requirements.)
Per the Privacy Rule, a covered entity means: a health plan; a health care clearinghouse; or a health care provider who transmits any health information in electronic form in connection with a transaction covered by the Privacy Rule.
According to the G-CertCnfdntlty, a Certificate of Confidentiality (CoC) is intended to help protect the privacy of human subject research participants from whom identifiable, sensitive information is being collected or used in furtherance of the research. CoCs must be issued for federally funded human subject research that collects or uses identifiable, sensitive information (mandatory CoCs). For non-federally funded research, issuance of CoCs is not required but may be issued at the discretion of the FDA (discretionary CoCs). If an institutional ethics committee (EC) (institutional review board (IRB) in the United States) determines that data collected in a clinical trial are sufficiently sensitive to warrant requesting a CoC, then the EC may request that a CoC be obtained in order to secure EC approval. Any disagreement between an EC, sponsor, and/or investigators regarding the need to request a CoC for a study should be resolved by communications among the parties. See the G-CertCnfdntlty for more information on CoCs.
Consent for Processing Personal Data
Per USA-86, the Privacy Rule defines the means by which individuals will be informed of uses and disclosures of their medical information for research purposes, and their rights to access information about themselves held by covered entities. Researchers may obtain, create, use, and/or disclose individually identifiable health information in the course of conducting research. Under the Privacy Rule, covered entities are permitted to use and disclose PHI for research with individual authorization, or without individual authorization under limited circumstances. To use or disclose PHI without authorization by the research participant, a covered entity must obtain one (1) of the following:
- Documented institutional EC or privacy board approval
- Representations from the researcher that the use or disclosure of the PHI is solely to prepare a research protocol (or for similar purposes preparatory to research), the researcher will not remove any PHI from the covered entity, and PHI for which access is sought is necessary for the research purpose
- Research on protected health information of decedents
- Limited data sets with a data use agreement
- Research use/disclosure with individual authorization
- Accounting for research disclosures
See USA-86 for more information on these circumstances.
Informed Consent > Documentation Requirements
In all United States (US) clinical trials, a freely given informed consent is required to be obtained from each participant in accordance with the requirements set forth in 21CFR50 for Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulated clinical trials, and the Pre2018-ComRule or the RevComRule for federally funded or sponsored clinical trials. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS)-funded or sponsored clinical trials must also comply with 45CFR46-B-E. The FDA has also adopted the US-ICH-GCPs as guidance.
As per 21CFR50, the Pre2018-ComRule, the RevComRule, and the US-ICH-GCPs, the informed consent form (ICF) is viewed as an essential document that must be reviewed and approved by an institutional ethics committee (EC) (institutional review board (IRB) in the US) and provided to the FDA with the investigational new drug application (IND). Per the G-RevComRule-FDA, the informed consent requirements of the RevComRule are not inconsistent with FDA regulations. Therefore, there may not be a need for sponsors or investigators to develop, and have ECs review, two (2) separate ICFs for research that must comply with both the RevComRule and FDA regulations. (See the Required Elements section for ICF content details.) Per the RevComRule, which took effect January 21, 2019, for each clinical trial conducted or supported by a federal department or agency, one (1) EC-approved informed consent form used to enroll subjects must be posted by the awardee or the federal department or agency component conducting the trial on a publicly available federal website that will be established as a repository for such ICFs. According to USA-12, two (2) federal websites have been identified to meet this requirement: ClinicalTrials.gov (USA-78) and a docket folder on Regulations.gov (USA-79). According to the RevComRule, if the federal department or agency supporting or conducting the clinical trial determines that certain information should not be made publicly available on a federal website (e.g., confidential, commercial information), such federal department or agency may permit or require redactions to the information posted. The ICF must be posted on the federal website after the clinical trial is closed to recruitment and no later than 60 days after the last study visit by any subject, as required by the protocol.
According to 21CFR50, the Pre2018-ComRule, the RevComRule, and the US-ICH-GCPs, the investigator must provide detailed research study information to the participant and/or the legal representative(s) or guardian(s). ICF content should be briefly and clearly presented orally and in writing, in a manner that is easy to understand and commensurate with the comprehension level of the research participants, and without coercion or unduly influencing a potential participant to enroll in the clinical trial. The participant and/or the legal representative(s) or guardian(s), should also be given adequate time to consider whether to participate.
As indicated in 21CFR50, the Pre2018-ComRule, the RevComRule, and the US-ICH-GCPs, none of the oral and written information concerning the research study should contain any language that causes the participant and/or the legal representative(s) or guardian(s) to waive or appear to waive legal rights, or that releases or appears to release the investigator, sponsor, institution or its agents from liability for negligence.
Additionally, per the RevComRule, participants must be provided with the information that a “reasonable person” would want to have in order to make an informed decision and an opportunity to discuss that information. Furthermore, the RevComRule requires that the informed consent, except for broad consent, must begin with a concise and focused presentation of the key information and organized to facilitate comprehension. Broad consent may be obtained in lieu of a full informed consent only with respect to the storage, maintenance, and secondary research uses of private identifiable information and identifiable biospecimens. See USA-54 and USA-60 for additional information regarding informed consent and broad consent requirements.
In addition, per 21CFR50, the Pre2018-ComRule, and the RevComRule, the ICF may be presented as either a full length written ICF or as a short form stating the consent requirements have been presented orally. The full length written ICF may be presented orally but must then be provided to the participant and/or a legal representative(s) or guardian(s) to read before it is signed.
See G-ElectronicIC for recommendations on the use of electronic systems and processes that may employ multiple electronic media to obtain informed consent for both HHS-regulated human subject research and FDA-regulated clinical investigations of medical products.
See USA-54 and USA-60 for additional information regarding informed consent.
According to 21CFR50, the US-ICH-GCPs, and the G-IRBFAQs, the EC should determine the need to re-consent enrolled participants in the event of an ICF modification due to protocol changes or new information which may, in turn, affect the willingness of already enrolled participants to continue in the study. The communication of this information should be documented.
The G-IRBFAQs indicates that the FDA does not require re-consenting of participants who have completed their active participation in the study, or of participants who are still actively participating when the change will not affect their participation. One such case is when the change will be implemented only for subsequently enrolled participants.
21CFR50, the Pre2018-ComRule, the RevComRule, and the US-ICH-GCPs state that any information provided must be in a language understandable to the participant and/or the legal representative(s) or guardian(s). As delineated in the G-ICInfoSheet, when non-English speaking participants are enrolled in a study, ECs and investigators must ensure that the information provided to prospective participants and/or their legal representative(s) or guardian(s) is in a language and at a level they can comprehend. The EC must review and approve all English and non-English language versions of consent documents. The FDA also recommends that whenever non-English speaking participants are enrolled in a study, appropriate interpreter services be made available.
USA-63 also states that when an oral presentation of the ICF is provided, the witness present should be fluent in both English and the participant’s language, and the translator may serve as the witness. See the G-ICInfoSheet and USA-63 for detailed information.
As set forth in 21CFR50, the Pre2018-ComRule, the RevComRule, and the US-ICH-GCPs, the participant and/or a legal representative(s) or guardian(s) must sign and date an EC-approved written ICF. A written copy of the form must be given to the participant and/or a legal representative(s) or guardian(s). In addition, the RevComRule explicitly allows electronic signatures for consent documentation.
Per 21CFR50, the Pre2018-ComRule, and the RevComRule, if the consent information is only presented orally using the short form, the participant and/or the legal representative(s) or guardian(s) must sign the form, the witness must sign both the short form and a copy of the summary once consent has been provided, and the person obtaining the consent must sign a copy of the summary. A copy of both the summary and the short form must be given to the participant and/or the legal representative(s) or guardian(s).
According to the US-ICH-GCPs, where the participant is illiterate and/or the legal representative(s) and/or guardian(s) is illiterate, an impartial witness should be present during the entire informed consent discussion. The witness should sign and date the ICF after the following steps have occurred:
- The written ICF and any other written information to be provided to the participant is read and explained to the participant and the legal representative(s) and/or guardian(s)
- The participant and the legal representative(s) and/or guardian(s), have orally consented to the participant’s involvement in the trial, and has signed and dated the ICF, if capable of doing so
Per the US-ICH-GCPs, before participating in the study, the participant or the legal representative(s) and/or guardian(s) should receive a copy of the signed and dated ICF.
Waiver of Consent
Per the Pre2018-ComRule and the RevComRule, the EC may waive the requirement to obtain a signed ICF if it finds any of the following:
- The ICF would risk a breach of confidentiality by linking the participant to the study
- The research presents minimal risk and involves no procedures for which written consent is required outside of the study
The RevComRule also adds that the EC may waive the requirements to obtain a signed ICF if the participants are part of a distinct cultural group or community in which signing the form is not the norm, the research presents minimal risk, and there is an alternative approach to document informed consent.
The Pre2018-ComRule and the RevComRule further indicate that in cases where the documentation requirement is waived, the EC may require the investigator to provide the participant or the legal representative(s) and/or guardian(s) with a written statement regarding the research.
In addition, the Pre2018-ComRule states that for an EC to approve a general waiver or alteration of consent, the EC must find that:
- The research involves no more than minimal risk
- The research could not practicably be carried out without the requested waiver or alteration
- If the research involves using identifiable private information or identifiable biospecimens, the research could not practicably be carried out without using such information or biospecimens in an identifiable format
- The waiver or alteration will not adversely affect the rights and welfare of the participants
- Whenever appropriate, the participant or the legal representative(s) and/or guardian(s) will be provided with additional pertinent information after participation
Per G-MinRiskWaiver, the FDA informs sponsors, investigators, and ECs that it does not intend to object to an EC waiving or altering informed consent requirements for certain minimal-risk, clinical investigations.
Furthermore, the Pre2018-ComRule, the RevComRule, and G-MinRiskWaiver specify that although voluntary informed consent is always a requirement for every trial, the EC may approve a waiver or alteration of consent if the study involves a public benefit and service program conducted by or subject to the approval of state or local officials and could not be carried out without the waiver or alteration.
Informed Consent > Required Elements
Based on 21CFR50, the Pre2018-ComRule, the RevComRule, and the US-ICH-GCPs, the informed consent form (ICF) must include the following statements or descriptions, as applicable (Note: The regulations provide overlapping and unique elements so each of the items listed below will not necessarily be in each source):
- The study purpose, procedures, and expected duration of the trial
- Identification of any experimental procedures
- Any expected risks or discomforts to the participant, and when applicable, to an embryo or fetus
- Any expected benefits to the participant
- Disclosure of appropriate alternative procedures that might be advantageous to the participant
- Confidentiality of records identifying the participant will be maintained and the possibility that the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) may inspect the records
- Compensation and/or treatment available for the participant in the case of trial-related injury
- Contact information for relevant individuals to contact in the event of a trial-related injury
- That participation is voluntary, that refusal to participate will involve no penalty or loss of benefits to which the participant is otherwise entitled, and that the participant can withdraw from the trial at any time without penalty or loss of benefits to which he/she is otherwise entitled
- Foreseeable circumstances under which the investigator may remove the participant without consent
- Any expenses the participant needs to pay to participate in the trial
- The consequences of a participant’s decision to withdraw from the study, and procedures for orderly withdrawal by the participant
- Any significant new findings developed during the study that may affect a participant’s willingness to continue participation
- Approximate number of participants in the study
As per 21CFR50, for FDA-regulated research, the following statement must be included on the informed consent documents: “A description of this clinical trial will be available on https://www.ClinicalTrials.gov, as required by U.S. Law. This Web site will not include information that can identify you. At most, the Web site will include a summary of the results. You can search this Web site at any time.”
The RevComRule also requires the following statements to be included in the ICF:
- Whether research results will be disclosed to participants
- Whether or not the participant’s information or biospecimens will be used or distributed for future research
- That participant’s biospecimens (even if identifiers are removed) may be used for commercial profit and if the participant will share in this profit
- Whether biospecimens research may include whole genome sequencing
The G-ICInfoSheet further states that when no system has been established to provide funds for compensation in case of injury, the preferred wording for the consent document is: “no funds have been set aside for” “[the cost] will be billed to you or your insurance,” or similar wording that explains the provisions or the process.
Informed Consent > Participant Rights
In accordance with 21CFR50, 21CFR312, the Pre2018-ComRule, the RevComRule, and the US-ICH-GCPs, the United States’ (US) ethical standards promote respect for all human beings and safeguard the rights of research participants. A participant’s rights must also be clearly addressed in the informed consent form (ICF) and during the informed consent process.
The Right to Participate, Abstain, or Withdraw
As set forth in 21CFR50, the Pre2018-ComRule, the RevComRule, and the US-ICH-GCPs, a potential participant and/or a legal representative(s) or guardian(s) must be informed that participation is voluntary, that the participant may withdraw from the research study at any time, and that refusal to participate will not involve any penalty or loss of benefits to which the participant is otherwise entitled.
The Right to Information
As delineated in 21CFR50, the Pre2018-ComRule, the RevComRule, and the US-ICH-GCPs, a potential research participant, and/or a legal representative(s) or guardian(s), has the right to be informed about the nature and purpose of the research study, its anticipated duration, study procedures, any potential benefits or risks, any compensation for participation or injury/treatment, and any significant new information regarding the research study.
The Right to Privacy and Confidentiality
As per 21CFR50, the Pre2018-ComRule, and the RevComRule, participants should be given a statement describing the extent, if any, to which confidentiality of records identifying them will be maintained. Per the US-ICH-GCPs, all participants must be afforded the right to privacy and confidentiality, and the ICF must provide a statement that recognizes this right. It is the responsibility of the investigator(s) to safeguard the confidentiality of research data to protect the identity and records of research participants.
The RevComRule does allow the use of identifiable information or biospecimens in instances where the institutional ethics committee (EC) (institutional review board (IRB) in the US) determines the research could not practicably be carried out without the information. Furthermore, it removes the requirement for the investigator to seek a waiver of informed consent to obtain information or biospecimens to screen, recruit, or determine eligibility of prospective participants. See USA-54 for more information.
See G-eHealthRecords for guidance related to the use of electronic health records in clinical research.
The Right of Inquiry/Appeal
21CFR50, the Pre2018-ComRule, the RevComRule, and the US-ICH-GCPs state that the research participant, and/or a legal representative(s) or guardian(s), should be provided with contact information for the sponsor and the investigator(s) to address trial-related inquiries and/or to appeal against a violation of the participant’s rights.
The Right to Safety and Welfare
The US-ICH-GCPs clearly states that a research participant’s right to safety and the protection of his/her health and welfare must take precedence over the interests of science and society.
Informed Consent > Emergencies
21CFR50, 21CFR56, the US-ICH-GCPs, and the G-ICEmergencyReqs make provisions to protect the rights of a research participant during the informed consent process when the procedure is complicated by life-threatening medical emergencies, public health emergencies, or military operations.
As per the US-ICH-GCPs, in an emergency, if the signed informed consent form (ICF) has not been obtained from the research participant and/or a legal representative(s) or guardian(s), or if an effective treatment is lacking but the investigational product (IP) could address the participant’s emergency needs, the clinical trial may be conducted. However, the method used on the participant must be explained clearly in the trial protocol, and the institutional ethics committee (EC) (referred to as an institutional review board (IRB) in the United States (US)) must approve the protocol in advance. The participant and/or the legal representative(s) or guardian(s) should be informed about the trial as soon as possible, and consent to continue and other consent should be requested, as appropriate.
Emergency Use Situation
21CFR56 describes emergency use as the use of a test article, such as an IP, on a human participant in a life-threatening situation in which no standard acceptable treatment is available, and in which there is not sufficient time to obtain EC approval.
21CFR50 and the G-EmrgncyUse indicate that even in an emergency use situation, obtaining participant consent is required unless the investigator and a physician not participating in the trial certify in writing the following:
- The participant is confronted by a life-threatening situation
- Informed consent cannot be obtained due to an inability to communicate with the participant
- Time is insufficient to obtain consent from the participant’s legal representative(s) and/or guardian(s)
- No alternative methods of approved or generally recognized therapy are available
Per 21CFR50 and the G-EmrgncyUse, if immediate use of the IP is, in the investigator's opinion, required to preserve the participant’s life and time is not sufficient to obtain an independent physician’s determination prior to using the IP, the investigator’s determinations should be carried out. However, within five (5) working days following the use of the IP, the investigator’s decision must be reviewed and evaluated in writing by a physician not participating in the investigation. According to 21CFR50, 21CFR56, and the G-EmrgncyUse, the investigator must also notify the EC within five (5) working days.
21CFR56, the G-EmrgncyUse, and the G-IRBFAQs further state that following emergency use of the IP, EC review and approval is required for any subsequent use of the IP.
The G-ICEmergencyReqs defines emergency research as a planned clinical investigation that requires prior written Food & Drug Administration (FDA) authorization to proceed, and involves participant(s) who are in a life-threatening situation for which available treatments or in vitro diagnostic tests are unproven or unsatisfactory.
21CFR50 and the G-ICEmergencyReqs delineate that for emergency research, the EC may approve the investigation without requiring the consent of all the participants if the EC (with the concurrence of a licensed physician who is an EC member or EC consultant, and not otherwise participating in the investigation) finds and documents the following:
- The participants are in a life-threatening situation, available treatments are unproven or unsatisfactory, and the collection of valid scientific evidence is necessary to determine the safety and effectiveness of particular interventions
- Obtaining informed consent is not feasible because: (i) the participants will not be able to give their informed consent as a result of their medical condition; (ii) the intervention under investigation must be administered before consent from the participants’ legal representative(s) and/or guardian(s) is feasible; and (iii) there is no reasonable way to identify prospectively the individuals likely to become eligible for participation in the clinical investigation
- Participation in the research holds out the prospect of direct benefit to the participants
- The clinical investigation could not practicably be carried out without the waiver
- The proposed investigational plan defines the length of the potential therapeutic window based on scientific evidence, and the investigator has committed to attempting to contact a legal representative and/or guardian for each participant within that window of time and, if feasible, to asking them for consent within that window rather than proceeding without consent
- The EC has reviewed and approved informed consent procedures and an informed consent document consistent with 21CFR50
- Additional protections of the rights and welfare of the participants will be provided
See 21CFR50 and the G-ICEmergencyReqs for more details.
USA-60 notes that in certain emergency circumstances, the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretarial waiver of informed consent under 46.101(i) of the RevComRule may be applicable. The HHS waiver applies to research that may be carried out in human participants who need emergency therapy and for whom, because of the participants’ medical condition and the unavailability of the participants’ legal representative(s) and/or guardian(s), no legally effective informed consent can be obtained. Furthermore, if the research is regulated by the FDA, the HHS waiver permits the research to be conducted under a comparable provision. See the G-HHS-Emrgncy for additional guidance.
21CFR50 and 10USC55 indicate that in the case of IP administration to a member of the armed forces in connection with participation in a particular military operation, the requirement for the member’s prior consent may be waived only by the US President. The US President may grant the waiver only after determining, in writing, that obtaining consent is not feasible; is contrary to the best interests of the military personnel; or is not in the interests of national security. See 21CFR50 and 10USC55 for detailed requirements.
Informed Consent > Vulnerable Populations
As per 21CFR56, the Pre2018-ComRule, the RevComRule, and the US-ICH-GCPs, in all United States (US) clinical trials, research participants selected from vulnerable populations must be provided additional protections to safeguard their health and welfare during the informed consent process. Ethics committees (ECs) (institutional review boards (IRBs) in the US) must pay special attention to protecting such participants.
21CFR56 and the US-ICH-GCPs require special considerations for vulnerable populations and characterize them as those whose willingness to volunteer in a trial may be unduly influenced by the expectation, whether justified or not, of benefits associated with participation, or of a retaliatory response for refusing to participate. Examples of these participants include members of a group with a hierarchical structure, such as medical, pharmacy, dental, and nursing students; subordinate hospital and laboratory personnel; pharmaceutical industry employees; members of the armed forces; and persons kept in detention. Per 21CFR56 and US-ICH-GCPs, other vulnerable subjects include children, pregnant women, physically or mentally disabled persons, patients with incurable diseases, persons in nursing homes, economically or educationally disadvantaged persons, patients in emergency situations, ethnic minority groups, homeless persons, nomads, refugees, minors, and those incapable of giving consent.
The Pre2018-ComRule describes children, prisoners, pregnant women, handicapped persons, mentally disabled persons, or economically or educationally disadvantaged persons as vulnerable populations.
The RevComRule describes children, prisoners, individuals with impaired decision-making capacity, or economically or educationally disadvantaged persons as vulnerable populations.
For more guidance documents related to vulnerable populations, see USA-64.
See the Children/Minors; Pregnant Women, Fetuses, & Neonates; Prisoners; and Mentally Impaired sections for additional information about these vulnerable populations.
Informed Consent > Children/Minors
As set forth in 21CFR50 and 45CFR46-B-E, children are defined as persons who have not attained the legal age for consent to treatments or procedures involved in the research, under the applicable law of the jurisdiction in which the study will be conducted. USA-25 further states that the age of majority in most states is 18 and therefore for legal purposes, children are those individuals who have not reached the age of 18. See USA-25 for a table delineating the legal age of majority by state in the United States (US).
Per the Pre2018-ComRule and the RevComRule, children require additional safeguards to be included in any research study in order to protect their rights and welfare.
As delineated in the US-ICH-GCPs, when the research participant is a minor, informed consent should be obtained from a legal representative(s) or guardian(s). All pediatric participants should be fully informed about the trial and its risks and benefits in a language and in terms that they are easily able to understand. If capable, the participant should sign and date the written informed consent.
For all clinical trials that do not involve greater than minimal risk, 21CFR50 and 45CFR46-B-E state that a study may only be conducted if adequate provisions are made to obtain the child’s assent and the permission of their legal representative(s) or guardian(s).
For all clinical trials that involve greater than minimal risk but present the prospect of direct benefit to the child, 21CFR50 and 45CFR46-B-E indicate that a study may only be conducted if the following applies:
- The risk is justified by the anticipated benefit to the child
- The anticipated benefit is greater than or equal to the available alternative approaches
- Adequate provisions are made to obtain the child’s assent and the permission of their legal representative(s) or guardians
For all clinical trials involving children/minors that involve greater than minimal risk and do not present the prospect of direct benefit to the child, but will likely result in increased knowledge about the child’s disorder or condition, 21CFR50 and the 45CFR46-B-E state that a study may only be conducted if the following applies:
- The risk is slightly greater than minimal
- The trial presents experiences that are similar to those associated with the child’s actual or expected medical, dental, psychological, social, or educational situation
- Adequate provisions are made to obtain the child’s assent and the permission of their legal representative(s) or guardian(s)
For all clinical trials that present a reasonable opportunity to further understand, prevent, or alleviate a serious problem affecting the health or welfare of children/minors but is not otherwise approvable per 21CFR50 and 45CFR46-B-E, a study may only be conducted if the following applies:
- The ethics committee (EC) (institutional review board (IRB) in the US) finds that the investigation presents a reasonable opportunity to further the understanding, prevention, or alleviation of a serious problem affecting the health or welfare of children, and,
- The Commissioner of Food and Drugs consults with an expert panel and has an opportunity for public review and comment to determine that the investigation satisfies the conditions of one (1) of the other earlier described research types, or the following conditions are met: the investigation will be conducted in accordance with sound ethical principles and adequate provisions are made for soliciting the assent of children and the permission of their legal representative(s) or guardian(s)
Per the RevComRule, certain exemptions may apply to observational research involving children. See the RevComRule for details.
For additional Food & Drug Administration (FDA) guidance on clinical research in children, see US-ICH-E11 and USA-60.
Per 21CFR50 and 45CFR46-B-E, when determining whether children/minors are capable of providing assent, the EC must consider their age, maturity, and psychological state. Assent from a child/minor is not necessary for proceeding with the clinical trial if the following applies:
- The capability of some or all of the children/minors is so limited that they cannot reasonably be consulted
- The trial presents a potential direct benefit that is important to the health or well-being of the children/minors and is only available through the investigation
Further, the EC may waive assent, even if the children/minors are capable of providing assent, if it finds and documents the following:
- Trial involves no more than minimal risk
- The waiver will not negatively affect the rights and welfare of the children/minors
- The trial could not be implemented without the waiver
- The children/minors will be given additional information after participation, whenever appropriate
When legal representative or guardian permission is necessary, the EC must determine whether the permission of one (1) legal representative or guardian is sufficient, or if permission from both is required. If the EC determines assent is required, it must also determine whether and how assent must be documented.
21CFR50 and 45CFR46-B-E do specify, however, that the consent of both legal representative(s) or guardian(s) is required in the following cases:
- When there is greater than minimal risk to the child with no direct benefit to the child, but the study will likely result in increased knowledge about the child’s disorder or condition
- Research that presents an opportunity to understand, prevent, or alleviate a serious problem affecting the health or welfare of children/minors, but is not otherwise approvable
Exceptions to the two (2) legal representatives’ and/or guardians’ consent requirement are when one (1) legal representative or guardian is deceased, unknown, incompetent, or not reasonably available, or, when only one (1) legal representative or guardian has legal responsibility for the care and custody of the child.
Informed Consent > Pregnant Women, Fetuses & Neonates
As per 21CFR50 and 45CFR46-B-E, for studies involving women of childbearing age or who are pregnant, a statement should be provided in the informed consent form (ICF) indicating that the treatment or procedure may involve risks to the participant, embryo, or fetus, which are currently unforeseeable. According to the US-ICH-GCPs, the ICF should include a statement on the reasonably foreseeable risks or inconveniences to the participant, and when applicable, to an embryo, fetus, or nursing infant.
Per the Pre2018-ComRule, pregnant women require additional safeguards to be included in any research study in order to protect their rights and welfare.
All Department of Health & Human Services (HHS)-sponsored or -funded research involving pregnant women, human fetuses, neonates of uncertain viability, or nonviable neonates must comply with Subpart B of 45CFR46-B-E.
Per the RevComRule, all of the available exemptions of the RevComRule for observational research may be applied to research involving pregnant women, fetuses, and neonates. See the RevComRule for details.
Pregnant Women and Fetuses
As per 45CFR46-B-E, pregnant women and fetuses may participate in research if all of the following criteria are met:
- Preclinical and clinical studies have been conducted and provide data for assessing potential risks, where scientifically appropriate
- Risk to the fetus is caused solely by procedures that provide potential direct benefit to the woman or fetus. If there is no potential direct benefit, then the risk to the fetus cannot be greater than minimal, and the intent of the study is to develop important biomedical knowledge that cannot be obtained otherwise
- Least possible risk involved for achieving the research objectives
- Consent is obtained from the woman for studies that provide potential direct benefit to the pregnant woman and/or fetus, and studies with minimal risk to the fetus conducted to develop important biomedical knowledge that cannot be obtained otherwise
- Consent is obtained from the pregnant woman and the father if the study provides potential direct benefit solely to the fetus. Paternal consent is not required if the father is unavailable, incompetent, temporarily incapacitated, or the pregnancy was a result of incest or rape
- All individuals providing consent are fully informed about the foreseeable impact on the fetus or neonate
- No inducements will be offered to terminate a pregnancy
- Participants will not be involved in determining the timing, method, or procedures for terminating a pregnancy
- Participants will not be involved in determining the viability of a neonate
45CFR46-B-E states that neonates may not be involved in research unless all of the following criteria are met:
- Preclinical and clinical studies have been conducted and provide data for assessing potential risks, where scientifically appropriate
- All individuals providing consent are fully informed about the foreseeable impact on the neonate
Neonates of uncertain viability may not be involved in research unless the ethics committee (EC) (institutional review board (IRB) in the United States (US)) determines the following additional conditions are met:
- Research provides the potential for increasing the probability of survival to the point of viability, and involves the least possible risk
- The purpose is to develop important biomedical knowledge that cannot be obtained otherwise and there is no added risk resulting from the research
- Informed consent is obtained from either parent, or if neither parent is able to provide consent, then consent is obtained from the neonate’s legal representative and/or guardian. Paternal consent is not required if pregnancy was a result of incest or rape.
Nonviable neonates may not be involved in research unless the following additional conditions are met:
- Vital functions will not be maintained artificially
- Research will not terminate the heartbeat or respiration
- The purpose is to develop important biomedical knowledge that cannot be obtained otherwise, and there is no added risk resulting from the research
- Consent is obtained from both parents. If neither parent is able to provide consent, informed consent of one (1) parent will suffice. Paternal consent is not required if pregnancy was a result of incest or rape. Consent of a legal representative or guardian of either or both parents will not suffice.
Viable neonates may only be included in research to the extent permitted by and in accordance with the RevComRule and subparts B and D of 45CFR46-B-E.
Informed Consent > Prisoners
21CFR56, 45CFR46-B-E, and the US-ICH-GCPs include prisoners in their description of vulnerable populations. As set forth in 45CFR46-B-E, a prisoner is defined as any individual involuntarily confined or detained in a penal institution. Prisoners are considered vulnerable because incarceration could affect their ability to make a voluntary decision regarding participation in research.
Per the Pre2018-ComRule and the RevComRule, prisoners require additional safeguards to be included in any research study in order to protect their rights and welfare.
45CFR46-B-E states that prisoners may participate in biomedical or behavioral research conducted or supported by the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) only if the following criteria are met:
- The institution conducting the research has certified to the HHS Secretary that the research has been approved by the ethics committees (EC) (institutional review board (IRB) in the United States (US)); research involves minimal risk; and studies focus on the possible causes, effects, and processes of incarceration and criminal behavior, prisons as institutional structures, or prisoners as incarcerated persons
- Research should focus on conditions specifically affecting prisoners as a class, or practices that have the intent and likelihood of improving the health or well-being of participants only after the HHS Secretary has consulted the appropriate experts, and a Federal Register notice is published indicating intent to approve such research
Per the RevComRule, none of its observational research exemptions may be applied to research involving prisoners, except for research aimed at involving a broader subject population that only incidentally includes prisoners.
See USA-62 for more information on prisoner research.
As per 45CFR46-B-E, ECs have additional approval responsibilities when reviewing research studies involving prisoners. An EC must only approve these studies if it determines that:
- The research under review represents one (1) of the permissible categories of research delineated in Subpart C
- The prisoner’s judgement will not be impaired by any possible advantages accruing to the prisoner through participation in the research, when compared to the general living conditions, medical care, quality of food, amenities, and opportunity for earnings in the prison
- Research risks are commensurate with those that would be accepted by non-prisoner volunteers
- Procedures for participant selection within the prison are fair to all prisoners and immune from arbitrary intervention by prison authorities or prisoners
- Information is presented in a language understandable to the prisoner population
- Adequate assurance exists that parole boards will not take into account a prisoner's participation in the research in making decisions regarding parole, and each prisoner is clearly informed in advance that participation in the research will have no effect on parole
- As needed, adequate provisions have been made for follow-up examination or care of participants, taking into account the varying lengths of individual prisoners' sentences, and for informing participants of this fact
See Subpart C of 45CFR46-B-E for additional EC requirements related to prisoner research.
Informed Consent > Mentally Impaired
In accordance with 21CFR56, the Pre2018-ComRule, and the US-ICH-GCPs, an ethics committee (EC) (institutional review board (IRB) in the United States (US)) must approve the participation of research participants who are mentally incapable of giving consent.
Per the Pre2018-ComRule and the RevComRule, this population requires additional safeguards to be included in any research study to protect the rights and welfare of participants likely to be vulnerable to coercion or undue influence.
USA-60 further indicates that while the regulations do not provide specific procedures, it is expected that for research involving adult participants with mental illnesses or cognitive impairments, the EC and investigator(s) must be knowledgeable about the condition and any level of impairment that is likely to be present in the participant population.
Investigational Products > Definition of Investigational Product
As delineated in 21CFR312, an investigational new drug is defined as a new drug or biological drug that is used in a clinical investigation. This includes a biological product that is used in vitro for diagnostic purposes. The terms ‘investigational drug’ and ‘investigational new drug’ are deemed to be synonymous for the purposes of this part.
Additionally, the US-ICH-GCPs defines an investigational product as a pharmaceutical form of an active ingredient or placebo being tested or used as a reference in a clinical trial, including a product with a marketing authorization when used or assembled (formulated or packaged) in a way different from the approved form, or when used for an unapproved indication, or when used to gain further information about an approved use.
Investigational Products > Manufacturing & Import
According to 21CFR312 and USA-42, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for authorizing the manufacture of investigational products (IPs) (also known as investigational new drugs in the United States (US)).
Per 21CFR312, sponsors that use an IP not already subject to a manufacturer’s investigational new drug application (IND) or marketing application are required to provide all of the technical chemistry, manufacturing, and control (CMC) information outlined in the application content and format requirements section of 21CFR312, unless such information may be referenced from applicable scientific literature. Sponsors using an IP already subject to a manufacturer’s application should follow the same general application format but may, if authorized by the manufacturer, refer to the manufacturer’s application to provide the technical (CMC) information supporting the proposed clinical investigation.
Moreover, as stated in 21CFR312, a sponsor may ship an IP to the investigators named in the IND under the following conditions:
- Thirty (30) days after the FDA receives the IND, or
- FDA provides earlier authorization to ship the IP
The sponsor is responsible for complying with the principles of good manufacturing practice (GMP) as specified in 21CFR210, the G-CGMP-Phase1, and the G-INDPrep. The US-ICH-GCPs also states that the sponsor must ensure that the products are manufactured in accordance with GMPs.
As set forth in 21CFR312, the FDA is also responsible for authorizing the import and export of IPs. An IP may be imported into the US if it is subject to an IND that is in effect for it and complies with one (1) of the following requirements:
- The IP consignee is the IND sponsor, or
- The consignee is a qualified investigator named in the IND, or
- The consignee is the domestic agent of a foreign sponsor, is responsible for the control and distribution of the IP, and the IND identifies the consignee and describes what, if any, actions the consignee will take with respect to the IP
Investigational Products > Quality Requirements
In accordance with 21CFR312 and the US-ICH-GCPs, the sponsor is responsible for providing investigators with an Investigator’s Brochure (IB). The IB must contain all of the relevant information on the investigational new drug(s)/investigational product(s) (IPs) obtained through the earlier research phases. The sponsor must also update the IB as significant new information becomes available.
As specified in 21CFR312 and the US-ICH-GCPs, the IB must provide coverage of the following areas (Note: The regulations provide overlapping and unique elements so each of the items listed below will not necessarily be in each source):
- A brief description of the drug substance and the formulation, including the structural formula, if known
- A summary of the pharmacological and toxicological effects of the drug in animals and, to the extent known, in humans
- A summary of the pharmacokinetics and biological disposition of the drug in animals and, if known, in humans
- A summary of information relating to safety and effectiveness in humans obtained from prior clinical studies
- A description of possible risks and side effects to be anticipated on the basis of prior experience with the drug under investigation or with related drugs, and of precautions or special monitoring to be done as part of the investigational use of the drug
- Summary of data and guidance for the investigator
See 21CFR312 and the US-ICH-GCPs for detailed IB content guidelines.
For investigational new drug applications (INDs) that include clinical data provided from studies conducted outside of the United States (US), 21CFR312 states that the sponsor or applicant must submit a description of the actions taken to ensure that the research conformed to good clinical practices (GCPs). See Section 312.120 of 21CFR312 for detailed requirements.
According to USA-39, submitting a copy of the Certificate of Analysis (CoA) of the clinical batch is suggested, but not required by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
The US-ICH-GCPs state that the sponsor must maintain a CoA to document the identity, purity, and strength of the IP(s) to be used in the clinical trial.
Investigational Products > Labeling
Investigational new drug/investigational product (IP) labeling in the United States (US) must comply with the requirements set forth in Section 312.6 of 21CFR312, which include the following:
- The immediate package of an IP intended for human use must bear a label with the following statement: “Caution: New Drug-Limited by Federal (or US) law to investigational use”
- The label or labeling of an IP must not bear any false or misleading statements and must not represent that the IP is safe or effective for the purposes for which it is being investigated
The appropriate Food & Drug Administration (FDA) Center Director may grant an exception or alternative to the requirements above for specific lots, batches, or other units of a human drug or biological product that is or will be included in the Strategic National Stockpile.
In addition, the US-ICH-GCPs states that the IP must be coded and labeled in a manner that protects the blinding, if applicable.
Investigational Products > Product Management
Supply, Storage, and Handling Requirements
As defined in the US-ICH-GCPs, the sponsor must supply the investigator(s)/institution(s) with the investigational new drug(s)/investigational product(s) (IP(s)), including the comparator(s) and placebo, if applicable. The IPs must also be suitably packaged in a manner that will prevent contamination and unacceptable deterioration during transport and storage.
Per 21CFR312, the US-ICH-GCPs, the G-CGMP-Phase1, and the G-INDPrep, the sponsor must ensure the following (Note: The regulations provide overlapping and unique elements so each of the items listed below will not necessarily be in each source):
- IP product quality and stability over the period of use
- IP manufactured according to any applicable good manufacturing practices (GMPs)
- Proper coding, packaging, and labeling of the IP(s)
- Acceptable storage temperatures, conditions, and times for the IP
- Timely delivery of the IP(s)
Refer to the US-ICH-GCPs, the G-CGMP-Phase1, and the G-INDPrep for detailed sponsor-related IP requirements.
According to 21CFR312, the sponsor must maintain adequate records showing the receipt, shipment, or other disposition of the IP. These records are required to include, as appropriate, the name of the investigator to whom the drug is shipped, and the date, quantity, and batch or code mark of each such shipment. The sponsor is also required to maintain records showing financial interest paid to investigators. See 21CFR312 for more details.
As per 21CFR312 and the US-ICH-GCPs, the sponsor and the investigator(s) must retain the clinical investigation records and reports for two (2) years after a marketing application (known as a New Drug Application (NDA)) is approved for the IP; or, if an NDA is not approved, until two (2) years after shipment and delivery of the IP is discontinued for investigational use and the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has been so notified.
Specimens > Definition of Specimen
A specimen, referred to as patient specimen in 49CFR173, is defined as human or animal material collected directly from humans or animals and transported for research, diagnosis, investigational activities, or disease treatment or prevention. Patient specimen includes excreta, secreta, blood and its components, tissue and tissue swabs, body parts, and specimens in transport media (e.g., transwabs, culture media, and blood culture bottles).
In addition, 42CFR73 defines specimen as samples of material from humans, animals, plants, or the environment or isolates or cultures from such samples for diagnosis, verification, or proficiency testing.
The RevComRule defines an identifiable biospecimen as one for which the identity of the participant is or may readily be ascertained by the investigator or associated with the biospecimen.
Specimens > Specimen Import & Export
The import and export of human specimens, also known as patient/diagnostic specimens/substances or human biological materials in the United States (US), is governed by several federal agencies working cooperatively to ensure the safe transport of these materials. These agencies include, but are not limited to, the Department of Transportation (DOT)’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Import Permit Program (IPP), the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), the United States Postal Service (USPS), and the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The IATA has also adopted all of the hazardous materials requirements set forth in the Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air (USA-10) published biannually by the United Nations (UN)’ International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
Per 49CFR173, 42CFR73, 42CFR71, USA-21, USA-4, USA-11, and USA-31, DOT’s PHMSA, IATA, USPS, and CDC’s IPP refer to an infectious specimen/substance as a Division 6.2 material (Category A or Category B), or a select agent, etiologic agent, toxin, or a vector of human disease. The CDC’s IPP is specifically responsible for the importation of infectious specimens/substances/biological agents/vectors of human disease per 42CFR71 and for regulating the possession, use, and transfer of select agents and toxins per 42CFR73. See 42CFR71, 42CFR73, USA-31, and USA-73 for further information and permit applications for these import/transfer programs.
Additionally, the Department of Commerce (DOC)’s Bureau of Industry and Security is responsible for regulating the export of a wide range of infectious specimens that may require a DOC license. Refer to the Commerce Control List (CCL) in 15CFR774 and USA-30 to determine if a DOC export permit is required for specific specimens.
According to 49CFR173, USA-21, and USA-4, certain materials and specimens are exempt from the DOT’s PHMSA, IATA, and USPS requirements for import/export of infectious specimens. These include materials that do not contain infectious substances; non-infectious biological materials from humans, animals, or plants; and specimens for which there is a low probability that the sample is infectious. Exempt human or animal specimens are not subject to regulation as hazardous materials but are subject to specific packaging procedures that must be followed when shipped. Please refer to 49CFR173, USA-21, USA-4, and USA-11 for detailed DOT, IATA, and USPS shipping instructions.
NIH Specimen Requirements
The HHS’ National Institutes of Health (NIH) researchers must also comply with all applicable federal and international air and ground transport laws and regulations. Researchers must also receive prior authorization from the NIH’s Quarantine Permit Service Office to obtain permits for the import, transfer, or export of all specimens to the NIH. Detailed instructions about how to proceed are outlined in USA-71.
Per USA-2, the NIH also requires researchers to use an agreement (e.g., Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) or contract) to transfer materials among academic, nonprofit, and/or industrial organizations. See USA-2 for detailed MTA requirements and Appendix 4 for a sample MTA.
Specimens > Consent for Specimen
As delineated in the G-IC-IVDs, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) only provides informed consent guidance with respect to its regulations governing the informed consent requirement when human specimens are used for FDA-regulated in vitro diagnostic device investigations.
Informed consent requirements guiding Department of Health & Human Services (HHS)-conducted or -supported research on human research participants is regulated by the Pre2018-ComRule and 45CFR46-B-E.
Per the Pre2018-ComRule and the G-SpecimensResrch, HHS views research involving human subject specimens as research involving human participants and subject to informed consent requirements, if the specimens obtained may be classified as identifiable private information. Identifiable private information or identifiable specimens are those that can be linked to specific individuals by the investigator(s) either directly or indirectly through coding systems. The RevComRule further defines an identifiable biospecimen as one for which the identity of the participant is or may readily be ascertained by the investigator. See the Pre2018-ComRule, RevComRule, the G-SpecimensResrch, USA-2, USA-9, and USA-1 for additional information. See also the G-SpecimensResrch for exemptions to this definition.
Additionally, according to USA-72, research with specimens, cells, cell lines, or data involves human subjects when:
- The specimens, cells, or data must be or must have been obtained from individuals who are alive, and must be or must have been obtained by an investigator conducting research; and
- The investigator either must be obtaining or must have obtained specimens, cells, or data through interaction or intervention with living individuals, or must be obtaining or have obtained individually identifiable private information.
See USA-72 for detailed frequently asked questions (FAQs) on this topic.
Per the Pre2018-ComRule, the RevComRule, and USA-2, prior to collecting, storing, or using a research participant’s biological specimen(s), consent must be obtained from the participant and/or a legal representative(s).
The RevComRule requires the informed consent form to provide one (1) of the following statements about any research that involves the collection of identifiable private information or identifiable biospecimens:
- A statement that identifiers might be removed from the identifiable private information or identifiable biospecimens and that, after such removal, the information or biospecimens could be used for future research studies or distributed to another investigator for future research studies without additional informed consent from the subject or the legally authorized representative, if this might be a possibility
- A statement that the subject's information or biospecimens collected as part of the research, even if identifiers are removed, will not be used or distributed for future research studies
- A statement that the subject's biospecimens (even if identifiers are removed) may be used for commercial profit and whether the subject will or will not share in this commercial profit
- Whether the research will (if known) or might include whole genome sequencing (i.e., sequencing of a human germline or somatic specimen with the intent to generate the genome or exome sequence of that specimen)
Furthermore, the RevComRule delineates the requirements of broad consent—an alternative consent process—for the storage, maintenance, and secondary research use of private information or identifiable biospecimens. Broad consent requires that the following information be provided to the participant and/or the legal representative(s) or guardian(s):
- Certain basic elements from the normal consent process related to risks, benefits, confidentiality, voluntary statement, commercial profit, contact information, and whole genome sequencing elements
- Types of research that may be conducted
- A description of the information or biospecimens that might be used in future research, whether sharing might occur; and the types of institutions or researchers that might conduct research
- A description of the length of time that the information or biospecimens may be stored, maintained, and used
- A statement that participants will or will not be informed of the details of any specific research studies that might be subsequently conducted
- A statement that research results either will or will not be disclosed to participants
- An explanation of whom to contact for answers to questions about the subject's rights and about storage and use of the subject's identifiable private information or identifiable biospecimens, and whom to contact in the event of a research-related harm.
The RevComRule does allow the use of identifiable information or biospecimens in instances where the ethics committee (EC) determines the research could not practicably be carried out without the information in that form. Furthermore, it removes the requirement for the investigator to seek a waiver of informed consent to obtain information or biospecimens to screen, recruit, or determine eligibility of prospective participants. See USA-54 for more information on broad consent and informed consent waivers.
The G-StoredData-Tissues and USA-2 recommend that the following be included in informed consent documents for biospecimen collection:
- A clear description of the operation of the biospecimen resource including details such as whether identifiable information will be maintained by the biospecimen resource and/or whether research results will be linked to the biospecimen
- Conditions under which samples and data will be released to recipient investigators
- Procedures for protecting the privacy of human research participants and confidentiality of data
- Specific descriptions of the nature and purpose of the research
- Information about the consequences of DNA typing if human genetic research is anticipated
(See the Required Elements and Participant Rights sections for additional information on informed consent).
Sources > Requirements
Sources > Additional Resources
Sources > Forms
See the United States updates page for details on recent revisions to the profile.
On December 29, 2022, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023 (H.R. 2617), an omnibus appropriations bill, was signed into law. Included in Title III of this bill is the Food and Drug Omnibus Reform Act of 2022 (“FDORA”), which includes several provisions intended to promote clinical trial diversity, encourage the growth of decentralized clinical trials, and streamline clinical trials.
The ClinRegs team will monitor the implementation of FDORA and will update the US profile as the Food & Drug Administration issues related guidelines.
As of May 12, 2023, the federal Public Health Emergency (PHR) for COVID-19, declared under Section 319 of the Public Health Service Act, has expired. See the Fact Sheet: COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Transition Roadmap released by the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) for more details. The ClinRegs team will monitor any changes made to the COVID-19 guidance documents listed below and will update them accordingly.
Food and Drug Administration:
- Guidance on Conduct of Clinical Trials of Medical Products during COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (updated August 30, 2021; currently being revised, but will remain in effect until November 7, 2023, during which time it will be further revised)
- Manufacturing, Supply Chain, and Drug and Biological Product Inspections During COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Questions and Answers (updated May 19, 2021; currently being revised, but will remain in effect until November 7, 2023)
For more information regarding the effective period for other COVID-19-related guidance documents issued by the FDA, see the notice issued on March 13, 2023.
Office for Human Research Protections:
- Exception to the Single IRB Review Requirements for Certain HHS-Conducted or -Supported Cooperative Research Activities Subject to the 2018 Requirements During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Public Health Emergency (October 8, 2020) – as of the conclusion of the public health emergency on May 11, 2023, use of this exception will continue to apply to studies where the exception was initially granted during the emergency, but cannot be applied to additional studies. For more details, see this OHRP announcement.
- OHRP Guidance on Coronavirus (April 8, 2020) – presents how HHS human subjects protection regulations (45 CFR part 46) apply to institutional and investigator actions responding to COVID-19. The guidance covers: Public Health and Clinical Activities; Excluded Public Health Surveillance Activities; Legally Required Reporting; Research Changes to Eliminate Apparent Immediate Hazards; Proposing and Reviewing Study Changes; and Whether Suspensions of Research Must be Reported.
National Institutes of Health:
Effective May 12, 2023, NIH will no longer issue Emergency Notices of Funding Opportunities related to COVID-19. Ongoing emergency awards will not be impacted and will retain all existing emergency flexibilities for the remained of the current competition segment. See NIH notice NOT-OD-23-095 for more details.
- Exceptions to Use of a Single IRB During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Public Health Emergency (October 23, 2020) - as of the conclusion of the public health emergency on May 11, 2023, the COVID-19 Single IRB exception has expired and cannot be applied to additional studies. All exceptions granted by NIH prior to May 11, 2023, will be effective for the duration of the research or the time they were granted, as indicated in the determination letters. See NIH notice NOT-OD-23-097 for more details.