Variation of community consultation and public disclosure for a pediatric multi-centered "Exception from Informed Consent" trial.
BACKGROUND: The US federal regulation "Exception from Informed Consent for Emergency Research," 21 Code of Federal Regulations 50.24, permits emergency research without informed consent under limited conditions. Additional safeguards to protect human subjects include requirements for community consultation and public disclosure prior to starting the research. Because the regulations are vague about these requirements, Institutional Review Boards determine the adequacy of these activities at a local level. Thus, there is potential for broad interpretation and practice variation.
AIM: To describe the variation of community consultation and public disclosure activities approved by Institutional Review Boards, and the effectiveness of this process for a multi-center, Exception from Informed Consent, pediatric status epilepticus clinical research trial.
METHODS: Community consultation and public disclosure activities were analyzed for each of the 15 participating sites. Surveys were conducted with participants enrolled in the status epilepticus trial to assess the effectiveness of public disclosure dissemination prior to study enrollment.
RESULTS: Every Institutional Review Board, among the 15 participating sites, had a varied interpretation of Exception from Informed Consent regulations for community consultation and public disclosure activities. Institutional Review Boards required various combinations of focus groups, interviews, surveys, and meetings for community consultation, and news releases, mailings, and public service announcements for public disclosure. At least 4335 patients received information about the study from these efforts. In all, 158 chose to be included in the "Opt Out" list. Of the 304 participants who were enrolled under Exception from Informed Consent, 12 (5%) had heard about the study through community consultation or public disclosure activities. The activities reaching the highest number of participants were surveys and focus groups associated with existing meetings. Public disclosure activities were more efficient and cost-effective if they were part of an in-hospital resource for patients and families.
CONCLUSION: There is substantial variation in Institutional Review Boards' interpretations of the federal regulations for community consultation and public disclosure. One of the goals of community consultation and public disclosure efforts for emergency research is to provide community members an opportunity to opt out of Exception from Informed Consent research; however, rarely do patients or their legally authorized representatives report having learned about a study prior to enrollment.