Burdensome Research Procedures in Trials: Why Less Is More

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A large volume of trials involve invasive, nontherapeutic research procedures, like organ biopsy or sham surgeries, that can pose risks comparable with the experimental treatment itself but that have no direct benefit for volunteers. Though such procedures can enhance the value of clinical investigations, recent studies suggest that many studies involving invasive, nontherapeutic research procedures are not well planned and reported; some studies suggest that their results are often not utilized in the planning of new investigations. This commentary offers recommendations for how investigators, sponsors, and ethics committees might improve evaluation and implementation of studies involving invasive nontherapeutic procedures. We conclude by urging more demanding scientific standards for the rationale, design, and reporting of burdensome, nontherapeutic research procedures—particularly where they involve risk of serious complications.

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