Practice-based Research Network Studies and Institutional Review Boards: Two New Issues


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Abstract

BackgroundPractice-based research network (PBRN) study investigators must interface with multiple Institutional Review Boards (IRBs), many of which are unfamiliar with PBRN research.ObjectiveTo present 2 IRB-related issues that have not appeared in the literature but occurred during the course of a large 5-year PBRN study involving 32 sites dispersed around the United States.ResultsOur study required IRB approval from a total of 19 local, hospital, academic center, and professional organization-based IRBs that reviewed a protocol of postpartum depression screening and follow-up completed in English or Spanish. Initial approval of the protocol and consent forms proceeded with only the usual barriers of submitting 19 different forms, and no protocol amendments were required. However, 2 unanticipated IRB issues provided significant additional work for the study team and the local practice sites. First, several IRBs required staff to repeat human subjects training every 1 to 2 years, resulting in 92 practicing physicians, residents, and members of the nursing staff spending time completing the exact same human subjects' training at least twice during the course of this study. Second, 17 of the 19 IRBs required that the patient be given consent forms that were newly stamped and dated each year, requiring the central site to reprint and replace consent forms yearly. Because not all IRBs returned the newly stamped and dated forms in a timely fashion, study enrollment with valid consent forms was interrupted in 4 sites for periods of 2 to 13 weeks.ConclusionsIRB requirements not directly responsive to federal regulations can add significant costs, frustrations, and burdens to PBRN studies. Non–federally mandated IRB requirements should be based on an identified need with evidence to support the solution.

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