How do Institutional Review Boards (IRB) and Ethics Committees (EC) impact clinical trials?

Suzanne H.
Suzanne H.

Sales and Marketing

Developing a patient-centric and compliant study is a top priority for any clinical team. Understanding the importance of Institutional Review Boards (IRB) and Ethics Committees (EC) and their role is critical to a successful clinical trial. Before a trial can begin, however, each aspect of the study must first be reviewed and approved by a designated regulatory body. IRBs and ECs check each component of the clinical trial, from protocol development to patient reimbursement and travel support. Below, you will learn about several types of these boards and how Clincierge helps sponsors and CROs keep logistics support and reimbursement compliant to avoid any study delays.

IRBs and ECs: Frequently Asked Questions

irb ec clinical trial timeline

What is an Ethics Committee (EC)?

An Ethics Committee comprises various pharmaceutical industry stakeholders, including doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains, and community members. These members come from diverse backgrounds and are stakeholders in the delivery of healthcare. They join together to discuss the clinical trial’s scientific, ethical, and legal ramifications and evaluate the benefit/risk factors involved.

What is the purpose of an Ethics Committee (EC)?

Ethics Committees ensure that human subject research and medical experiments operate according to all national and international laws.

What is an Institutional Review Board (IRB)?

An Institutional Review Board is a formally designated group assigned to monitor and review any medical research involving human subjects. This team has the authority to approve or disapprove research and ask for research modifications to lead to approval. IRBs operate under United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations.

What is the purpose of an Institutional Review Board (IRB)?

Institutional Review Boards are responsible for protecting and assuring that human research subjects’ rights and welfare both before they begin their participation (with appropriate protocols in place) and throughout the clinical trial (through periodic study reviews).

What is the difference between an IRB and EC?

Clinical trials conducted in the European Union are held accountable by Ethics Committees (ECs). In the United States, Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) have oversight and must abide by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations. Countries other than those in the European Union and the United States have individual committees and regulations.

Why are ECs and IRBs so critical?

Ethics Committees and Institutional Review Boards are necessary to monitor all aspects of clinical trials, ensuring that human trial participants’ safety is their top priority. They review each study through neutral eyes, evaluating the risks and benefits throughout every clinical trial process step.

How long does it take to receive IRB/EC approvals?

As explained earlier, each aspect of the clinical trial, including patient payment guidelines, must be approved by the IRB before any patient recruitment and enrollment are permitted to begin. Generally, an IRB submission takes one month to receive approval, with expedited/exempt approvals returned in about two weeks. If there are any details of the study that do not align with IRB standards, the IRB refuses approval and suggests amendments to receive approval. Just one minor change could result in weeks or months of delays for a clinical trial, leading to loss of money for the sponsor and loss of much-needed treatment for trial participants.

Each country across the world has its regulations for stipend and per diem payments, patient reimbursements, and tax reporting of income related to clinical trial participation. When conducting a trial at sites in various countries, understanding these unique requirements is hugely time-consuming and overwhelming. Often, countries will make changes to their guidelines, causing the need to quickly pivot to adapt to these updates and adhere to the new rules.

As your full-service provider of logistical support, Clincierge has the expertise needed to help assess the feasibility of supporting patients in specific regions worldwide. We streamline the process by providing required documents in multiple languages as well as manage any document revisions. Our team keeps abreast of current regulations in each country and provides recommendations to ensure compliance and adherence to specific guidelines.

Our next article will highlight some of the complex challenges we’ve faced providing travel, logistics, and patient payment support in multiple countries across the globe. 

Remove barriers to clinical trial participation and improve your trial's performance

COVID-19 Questions?

Clincierge is closely monitoring the impact of COVID-19 on the travel and clinical trial industries.

Please fill out the form below so we can best assist you.