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1.  Reporting Bias in Drug Trials Submitted to the Food and Drug Administration: Review of Publication and Presentation 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(11):e217.
Background
Previous studies of drug trials submitted to regulatory authorities have documented selective reporting of both entire trials and favorable results. The objective of this study is to determine the publication rate of efficacy trials submitted to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in approved New Drug Applications (NDAs) and to compare the trial characteristics as reported by the FDA with those reported in publications.
Methods and Findings
This is an observational study of all efficacy trials found in approved NDAs for New Molecular Entities (NMEs) from 2001 to 2002 inclusive and all published clinical trials corresponding to the trials within the NDAs. For each trial included in the NDA, we assessed its publication status, primary outcome(s) reported and their statistical significance, and conclusions. Seventy-eight percent (128/164) of efficacy trials contained in FDA reviews of NDAs were published. In a multivariate model, trials with favorable primary outcomes (OR = 4.7, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.33–17.1, p = 0.018) and active controls (OR = 3.4, 95% CI 1.02–11.2, p = 0.047) were more likely to be published. Forty-one primary outcomes from the NDAs were omitted from the papers. Papers included 155 outcomes that were in the NDAs, 15 additional outcomes that favored the test drug, and two other neutral or unknown additional outcomes. Excluding outcomes with unknown significance, there were 43 outcomes in the NDAs that did not favor the NDA drug. Of these, 20 (47%) were not included in the papers. The statistical significance of five of the remaining 23 outcomes (22%) changed between the NDA and the paper, with four changing to favor the test drug in the paper (p = 0.38). Excluding unknowns, 99 conclusions were provided in both NDAs and papers, nine conclusions (9%) changed from the FDA review of the NDA to the paper, and all nine did so to favor the test drug (100%, 95% CI 72%–100%, p = 0.0039).
Conclusions
Many trials were still not published 5 y after FDA approval. Discrepancies between the trial information reviewed by the FDA and information found in published trials tended to lead to more favorable presentations of the NDA drugs in the publications. Thus, the information that is readily available in the scientific literature to health care professionals is incomplete and potentially biased.
Lisa Bero and colleagues review the publication status of all efficacy trials carried out in support of new drug approvals from 2001 and 2002, and find that a quarter of trials remain unpublished.
Editors' Summary
Background.
All health-care professionals want their patients to have the best available clinical care—but how can they identify the optimum drug or intervention? In the past, clinicians used their own experience or advice from colleagues to make treatment decisions. Nowadays, they rely on evidence-based medicine—the systematic review and appraisal of clinical research findings. So, for example, before a new drug is approved for the treatment of a specific disease in the United States and becomes available for doctors to prescribe, the drug's sponsors (usually a pharmaceutical company) must submit a “New Drug Application” (NDA) to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The NDA tells the story of the drug's development from laboratory and animal studies through to clinical trials, including “efficacy” trials in which the efficacy and safety of the new drug and of a standard drug for the disease are compared by giving groups of patients the different drugs and measuring several key (primary) “outcomes.” FDA reviewers use this evidence to decide whether to approve a drug.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although the information in NDAs is publicly available, clinicians and patients usually learn about new drugs from articles published in medical journals after drug approval. Unfortunately, drug sponsors sometimes publish the results only of the trials in which their drug performed well and in which statistical analyses indicate that the drug's improved performance was a real effect rather than a lucky coincidence. Trials in which a drug did not show a “statistically significant benefit” or where the drug was found to have unwanted side effects often remain unpublished. This “publication bias” means that the scientific literature can contain an inaccurate picture of a drug's efficacy and safety relative to other therapies. This may lead to clinicians preferentially prescribing newer, more expensive drugs that are not necessarily better than older drugs. In this study, the researchers test the hypothesis that not all the trial results in NDAs are published in medical journals. They also investigate whether there are any discrepancies between the trial data included in NDAs and in published articles.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified all the efficacy trials included in NDAs for totally new drugs that were approved by the FDA in 2001 and 2002 and searched the scientific literature for publications between July 2006 and June 2007 relating to these trials. Only three-quarters of the efficacy trials in the NDAs were published; trials with favorable outcomes were nearly five times as likely to be published as those without favorable outcomes. Although 155 primary outcomes were in both the papers and the NDAs, 41 outcomes were only in the NDAs. Conversely, 17 outcomes were only in the papers; 15 of these favored the test drug. Of the 43 primary outcomes reported in the NDAs that showed no statistically significant benefit for the test drug, only half were included in the papers; for five of the reported primary outcomes, the statistical significance differed between the NDA and the paper and generally favored the test drug in the papers. Finally, nine out of 99 conclusions differed between the NDAs and the papers; each time, the published conclusion favored the test drug.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that the results of many trials of new drugs are not published 5 years after FDA approval of the drug. Furthermore, unexplained discrepancies between the data and conclusions in NDAs and in medical journals are common and tend to paint a more favorable picture of the new drug in the scientific literature than in the NDAs. Overall, these findings suggest that the information on the efficacy of new drugs that is readily available to clinicians and patients through the published scientific literature is incomplete and potentially biased. The recent introduction in the US and elsewhere of mandatory registration of all clinical trials before they start and of mandatory publication in trial registers of the full results of all the predefined primary outcomes should reduce publication bias over the next few years and should allow clinicians and patients to make fully informed treatment decisions.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050217.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by An-Wen Chan
PLoS Medicine recently published a related article by Ida Sim and colleagues: Lee K, Bacchetti P, Sim I (2008) Publication of clinical trials supporting successful new drug applications: A literature analysis. PLoS Med 5: e191. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050191
The Food and Drug Administration provides information about drug approval in the US for consumers and for health-care professionals; detailed information about the process by which drugs are approved is on the Web site of the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (in English and Spanish)
NDAs for approved drugs can also be found on this Web site
The ClinicalTrials.gov Web site provides information about the US National Institutes of Health clinical trial registry, background information about clinical trials, and a fact sheet detailing the requirements of the FDA Amendments Act 2007 for trial registration
The World Health Organization's International Clinical Trials Registry Platform is working toward setting international norms and standards for the reporting of clinical trials (in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050217
PMCID: PMC2586350  PMID: 19067477
2.  Adverse events in total knee arthroplasty: Results of a physician independent survey in 260 patients 
Purpose
Identification of all common and potentially avoidable adverse events is crucial to further improve the quality of medical care. The intention of the current study was to evaluate a standardized physician independent survey format on adverse events in total knee arthroplasty. The protocol for reporting adverse drug events following the International Conference of Harmonisation of technical requirements for registration of pharmaceuticals for human use (ICH) was adopted for adverse events occurring during surgical interventions.
Material and methods
Data of a prospective sequential cohort trial introducing a clinical pathway for total knee arthroplasty was analysed. Reporting of adverse events was done by a physician independent study nurse using the modified ICH-Good Clinical Practice (GCP) format (Structure and Content of Clinical study reports - E3) in 260 patients. The adverse events were graded to their severity and their potential relation to surgical treatment.
Results
A total of 55 patients (21%) suffered from an adverse event and 16 (6%) from a serious adverse event. In 38 patients' one adverse event occurred, 12 patients showed 2 adverse events and 5 patients suffered from a combination of an adverse and a serious adverse event. A serious adverse event alone occurred in 11 patients. The incidence of adverse events (Fisher p = 0.448) and serious adverse (p = 0.126) events showed no significant difference between the two cohorts. The most common adverse events were deep vein thrombosis (8% and 5%) followed by wound healing problems (1% and 0%) and haematoma (1% and 3%). A wide range of non surgical adverse events were recorded with low incidence levels.
Conclusion
The use of the modified ICH-GCP format supports standardization of adverse event reporting. Routine assessment of adverse events by a study nurse revealed higher incidence rates of adverse events in total knee arthroplasty. We recommend the implementation of trained paramedical staff for the documentation of adverse events in routine clinical care.
doi:10.1186/1754-9493-4-12
PMCID: PMC2928185  PMID: 20699004
3.  Impact of regulatory requirements on medicine registration in African countries – perceptions and experiences of pharmaceutical companies in South Africa 
Southern Med Review  2012;5(1):31-37.
Objective: Access to medicines has long been and remains a challenge in African countries. The impact of medicines registration policies in these countries poses a challenge for pharmaceutical companies wanting to register medicines in these countries. The recent AMRHI (African Medicines Registration Harmonisation Initiative) has increased the focus on the need for harmonisation. Medicines registration regulations differ across African countries. Anecdotal evidence, based on the experience of pharmaceutical companies on progress towards harmonisation is somewhat different, i.e. that country specific requirements were a barrier to the registration of medicines. The objective of this study was therefore to determine the nature and extent of regulatory hurdles experienced by pharmaceutical companies who wish to register and supply medicines to African countries.
Methods: This cross-sectional descriptive pilot study was conducted across pharmaceutical companies, both local and multinational. These companies were based in South Africa and were also members of Pharmaceutical Industry Association of South Africa (PIASA). The pharmaceutical companies supply both the private and public sectors. An online survey was developed using Survey Monkey. Survey questions focused on the following strands: nature and level of current supply of medicines to African countries by companies, general regulatory requirements, region specific questions and country specific questions across four regional economic communities in Africa, namely; Southern African Development Community (SADC), East African Community (EAC), Economic Community of the West African States (ECOWAS) and Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).
Results: A total of 33 responses were received to the questionnaire of which 26 respondents were from the PIASA Regulatory working group and 7 were from the PIASA Export working group.It was noted that since most of the regulatory authorities in Africa are resource-constrained, harmonisation of medicine registration policies will contribute positively to ensuring the safety, quality and efficacy of medicines. The experience of pharmaceutical companies indicated that country specific regulatory requirements are a barrier to registering and supplying medicines to African countries. In particular, GMP inspections, GMP inspection fees and country specific labeling were cited as key problems.
Conclusion: Pharmaceutical companies operating in African markets are experiencing difficulties in complying with the technical requirements of individual African countries. Further research is required to provide a balanced perspective on the country specific regulatory requirements vs. the African Regulatory Harmonisation Initiative (AMRHI).
PMCID: PMC3471191  PMID: 23093897
medicine registration; labeling; pharmaceutical policy; Good Manufacturing Practice
4.  Information from Pharmaceutical Companies and the Quality, Quantity, and Cost of Physicians' Prescribing: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(10):e1000352.
Geoff Spurling and colleagues report findings of a systematic review looking at the relationship between exposure to promotional material from pharmaceutical companies and the quality, quantity, and cost of prescribing. They fail to find evidence of improvements in prescribing after exposure, and find some evidence of an association with higher prescribing frequency, higher costs, or lower prescribing quality.
Background
Pharmaceutical companies spent $57.5 billion on pharmaceutical promotion in the United States in 2004. The industry claims that promotion provides scientific and educational information to physicians. While some evidence indicates that promotion may adversely influence prescribing, physicians hold a wide range of views about pharmaceutical promotion. The objective of this review is to examine the relationship between exposure to information from pharmaceutical companies and the quality, quantity, and cost of physicians' prescribing.
Methods and Findings
We searched for studies of physicians with prescribing rights who were exposed to information from pharmaceutical companies (promotional or otherwise). Exposures included pharmaceutical sales representative visits, journal advertisements, attendance at pharmaceutical sponsored meetings, mailed information, prescribing software, and participation in sponsored clinical trials. The outcomes measured were quality, quantity, and cost of physicians' prescribing. We searched Medline (1966 to February 2008), International Pharmaceutical Abstracts (1970 to February 2008), Embase (1997 to February 2008), Current Contents (2001 to 2008), and Central (The Cochrane Library Issue 3, 2007) using the search terms developed with an expert librarian. Additionally, we reviewed reference lists and contacted experts and pharmaceutical companies for information. Randomized and observational studies evaluating information from pharmaceutical companies and measures of physicians' prescribing were independently appraised for methodological quality by two authors. Studies were excluded where insufficient study information precluded appraisal. The full text of 255 articles was retrieved from electronic databases (7,185 studies) and other sources (138 studies). Articles were then excluded because they did not fulfil inclusion criteria (179) or quality appraisal criteria (18), leaving 58 included studies with 87 distinct analyses. Data were extracted independently by two authors and a narrative synthesis performed following the MOOSE guidelines. Of the set of studies examining prescribing quality outcomes, five found associations between exposure to pharmaceutical company information and lower quality prescribing, four did not detect an association, and one found associations with lower and higher quality prescribing. 38 included studies found associations between exposure and higher frequency of prescribing and 13 did not detect an association. Five included studies found evidence for association with higher costs, four found no association, and one found an association with lower costs. The narrative synthesis finding of variable results was supported by a meta-analysis of studies of prescribing frequency that found significant heterogeneity. The observational nature of most included studies is the main limitation of this review.
Conclusions
With rare exceptions, studies of exposure to information provided directly by pharmaceutical companies have found associations with higher prescribing frequency, higher costs, or lower prescribing quality or have not found significant associations. We did not find evidence of net improvements in prescribing, but the available literature does not exclude the possibility that prescribing may sometimes be improved. Still, we recommend that practitioners follow the precautionary principle and thus avoid exposure to information from pharmaceutical companies.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
A prescription drug is a medication that can be supplied only with a written instruction (“prescription”) from a physician or other licensed healthcare professional. In 2009, 3.9 billion drug prescriptions were dispensed in the US alone and US pharmaceutical companies made US$300 billion in sales revenue. Every year, a large proportion of this revenue is spent on drug promotion. In 2004, for example, a quarter of US drug revenue was spent on pharmaceutical promotion. The pharmaceutical industry claims that drug promotion—visits from pharmaceutical sales representatives, advertisements in journals and prescribing software, sponsorship of meetings, mailed information—helps to inform and educate healthcare professionals about the risks and benefits of their products and thereby ensures that patients receive the best possible care. Physicians, however, hold a wide range of views about pharmaceutical promotion. Some see it as a useful and convenient source of information. Others deny that they are influenced by pharmaceutical company promotion but claim that it influences other physicians. Meanwhile, several professional organizations have called for tighter control of promotional activities because of fears that pharmaceutical promotion might encourage physicians to prescribe inappropriate or needlessly expensive drugs.
Why Was This Study Done?
But is there any evidence that pharmaceutical promotion adversely influences prescribing? Reviews of the research literature undertaken in 2000 and 2005 provide some evidence that drug promotion influences prescribing behavior. However, these reviews only partly assessed the relationship between information from pharmaceutical companies and prescribing costs and quality and are now out of date. In this study, therefore, the researchers undertake a systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic) to reexamine the relationship between exposure to information from pharmaceutical companies and the quality, quantity, and cost of physicians' prescribing.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers searched the literature for studies of licensed physicians who were exposed to promotional and other information from pharmaceutical companies. They identified 58 studies that included a measure of exposure to any type of information directly provided by pharmaceutical companies and a measure of physicians' prescribing behavior. They then undertook a “narrative synthesis,” a descriptive analysis of the data in these studies. Ten of the studies, they report, examined the relationship between exposure to pharmaceutical company information and prescribing quality (as judged, for example, by physician drug choices in response to clinical vignettes). All but one of these studies suggested that exposure to drug company information was associated with lower prescribing quality or no association was detected. In the 51 studies that examined the relationship between exposure to drug company information and prescribing frequency, exposure to information was associated with more frequent prescribing or no association was detected. Thus, for example, 17 out of 29 studies of the effect of pharmaceutical sales representatives' visits found an association between visits and increased prescribing; none found an association with less frequent prescribing. Finally, eight studies examined the relationship between exposure to pharmaceutical company information and prescribing costs. With one exception, these studies indicated that exposure to information was associated with a higher cost of prescribing or no association was detected. So, for example, one study found that physicians with low prescribing costs were more likely to have rarely or never read promotional mail or journal advertisements from pharmaceutical companies than physicians with high prescribing costs.
What Do These Findings Mean?
With rare exceptions, these findings suggest that exposure to pharmaceutical company information is associated with either no effect on physicians' prescribing behavior or with adverse affects (reduced quality, increased frequency, or increased costs). Because most of the studies included in the review were observational studies—the physicians in the studies were not randomly selected to receive or not receive drug company information—it is not possible to conclude that exposure to information actually causes any changes in physician behavior. Furthermore, although these findings provide no evidence for any net improvement in prescribing after exposure to pharmaceutical company information, the researchers note that it would be wrong to conclude that improvements do not sometimes happen. The findings support the case for reforms to reduce negative influence to prescribing from pharmaceutical promotion.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000352.
Wikipedia has pages on prescription drugs and on pharmaceutical marketing (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The UK General Medical Council provides guidelines on good practice in prescribing medicines
The US Food and Drug Administration provides information on prescription drugs and on its Bad Ad Program
Healthy Skepticism is an international nonprofit membership association that aims to improve health by reducing harm from misleading health information
The Drug Promotion Database was developed by the World Health Organization Department of Essential Drugs & Medicines Policy and Health Action International Europe to address unethical and inappropriate drug promotion
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000352
PMCID: PMC2957394  PMID: 20976098
5.  AAPS–FIP Summary Workshop Report: Pharmacogenetics in Individualized Medicine: Methods, Regulatory, and Clinical Applications 
The AAPS Journal  2009;11(2):214-216.
The workshop “Pharmacogenetics in Individualized Medicine: Methods, Regulatory, and Clinical Applications” was held November 15–16, 2008 in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. This workshop provided an opportunity for pharmaceutical scientists, clinical practitioners, clinical laboratory scientists, and FDA to discuss methods, regulatory, and the application of pharmacogenetics in clinical practice and drug discovery. Key highlights of the workshop were: (a) the use of genetic information in individualized medicine has significant potential in advancing drug development and human health by optimizing drug response, drug efficacy, and preventing adverse drug reactions; (b) various barriers exist preventing the advance of the individualized medicine in the society, industry, and clinical practice; and (c) the barriers may be overcome by integrated approaches; the education of researchers, clinical practitioners, and patients and fostering interactive communication among stakeholders. By targeting the AAPS audience, this workshop was one step among many steps that AAPS–FIP is intending to take towards removing the barriers to widespread uptake of pharmacogenetics in drug discovery and clinical practice.
doi:10.1208/s12248-009-9097-0
PMCID: PMC2691457  PMID: 19319689
clinical pharmacology; drug discovery; drug metabolism; individualized medicine; pharmacogenetics; pharmacogenomics
6.  Towards a better understanding of QT interval variability 
The International Conference on Harmonization of Technical Requirements for Registration of Pharmaceuticals for Human Use (ICH) Guideline E14 recommends ‘Thorough QT Study’ as a standard assessment of drug-induced QT interval prolongation. At the same time, the value of drug-induced QTc prolongation as a surrogate marker for risk of life-threatening polymorphic ventricular tachycardia known as torsades des pointes remains controversial. Beat-to-beat variability of QT interval was recently proposed as an alternative metric. The following review addresses mechanisms of beat-to-beat QT variability, methods of QT interval variability measurements, and its prognostic value in clinical studies.
doi:10.1177/2042098611421209
PMCID: PMC4110835  PMID: 25083216
drug safety; QT interval; QT variability; ventricular tachyarrhythmias
7.  Strategies and Practices in Off-Label Marketing of Pharmaceuticals: A Retrospective Analysis of Whistleblower Complaints 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(4):e1000431.
Aaron Kesselheim and colleagues analyzed unsealed whistleblower complaints against pharmaceutical companies filed in US federal fraud cases that contained allegations of off-label marketing, and develop a taxonomy of the various off-label practices.
Background
Despite regulatory restrictions, off-label marketing of pharmaceutical products has been common in the US. However, the scope of off-label marketing remains poorly characterized. We developed a typology for the strategies and practices that constitute off-label marketing.
Methods and Findings
We obtained unsealed whistleblower complaints against pharmaceutical companies filed in US federal fraud cases that contained allegations of off-label marketing (January 1996–October 2010) and conducted structured reviews of them. We coded and analyzed the strategic goals of each off-label marketing scheme and the practices used to achieve those goals, as reported by the whistleblowers. We identified 41 complaints arising from 18 unique cases for our analytic sample (leading to US$7.9 billion in recoveries). The off-label marketing schemes described in the complaints had three non–mutually exclusive goals: expansions to unapproved diseases (35/41, 85%), unapproved disease subtypes (22/41, 54%), and unapproved drug doses (14/41, 34%). Manufacturers were alleged to have pursued these goals using four non–mutually exclusive types of marketing practices: prescriber-related (41/41, 100%), business-related (37/41, 90%), payer-related (23/41, 56%), and consumer-related (18/41, 44%). Prescriber-related practices, the centerpiece of company strategies, included self-serving presentations of the literature (31/41, 76%), free samples (8/41, 20%), direct financial incentives to physicians (35/41, 85%), and teaching (22/41, 54%) and research activities (8/41, 20%).
Conclusions
Off-label marketing practices appear to extend to many areas of the health care system. Unfortunately, the most common alleged off-label marketing practices also appear to be the most difficult to control through external regulatory approaches.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Before a pharmaceutical company can market a new prescription drug in the US, the drug has to go through a long approval process. After extensive studies in the laboratory and in animals, the pharmaceutical company must test the drug's safety and efficacy in a series of clinical trials in which groups of patients with specific diseases are given the drug according to strict protocols. The results of these trials are reviewed by Federal Drug Administration (FDA, the body that regulates drugs in the US) and, when the FDA is satisfied that the drug is safe and effective for the conditions in which it is tested, it approves the drug for sale. An important part of the approval process is the creation of the “drug label,” a detailed report that specifies the exact diseases and patient groups in which the drug can be used and the approved doses of the drug.
Why Was This Study Done?
Physicians can, however, legally use FDA-approved drugs “off-label.” That is, they can prescribe drugs for a different disease, in a different group of patients, or at a different dose to that specified in the drug's label. However, because drugs' manufacturers stand to benefit financially from off-label use through increased drugs sales, the FDA prohibits them from directly promoting unapproved uses. The fear is that such marketing would encourage the widespread use of drugs in settings where their efficacy and safety has not been rigorously tested, exposing patients to uncertain benefits and possible adverse effects. Despite the regulatory restrictions, off-label marketing seems to be common. In 2010, for example, at least six pharmaceutical companies settled US government investigations into alleged off-label marketing programs. Unfortunately, the tactics used by pharmaceutical companies for off-label marketing have been poorly understood in the medical community, in part because pharmaceutical industry insiders (“whistleblowers”) are the only ones who can present in-depth knowledge of these tactics. In recent years, as more whistleblowers have come forward to allege off-label marketing, developing a more complete picture of the practice is now possible. In this study, the researchers attempt to systematically classify the strategies and practices used in off-labeling marketing by examining complaints filed by whistleblowers in federal enforcement actions where off-label marketing by pharmaceutical companies has been alleged.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In their analysis of 41 whistleblower complaints relating to 18 alleged cases of off-label marketing in federal fraud cases unsealed between January 1996 and October 2010, the researchers identified three non–mutually exclusive goals of off-label marketing schemes. The commonest goal (85% of cases) was expansion of drug use to unapproved diseases (for example, gabapentin, which is approved for the treatment of specific types of epilepsy, was allegedly promoted as a therapy for patients with psychiatric diseases such as depression). The other goals were expansion to unapproved disease subtypes (for example, some antidepressant drugs approved for adults were allegedly promoted to pediatricians for use in children) and expansion to unapproved drug dosing strategies, typically higher doses. The researchers also identified four non–mutually exclusive types of marketing practices designed to achieve these goals. All of the whistleblowers alleged prescriber-related practices (including providing financial incentives and free samples to physicians), and most alleged internal practices intended to bolster off-label marketing, such as sales quotas that could only be met if the manufacturer's sales representatives promoted off-label drug use. Payer-related practices (for example, discussions with prescribers about ways to ensure insurance reimbursement for off-label prescriptions) and consumer-related practices (most commonly, the review of confidential patient charts to identify consumers who could be off-label users) were also alleged.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that off-labeling marketing practices extend to many parts of the health care delivery system. Because these practices were alleged by whistleblowers and were not the subject of testimony in a full trial, some of the practices identified by the researchers were not confirmed. Conversely, because most of the whistleblowers were US-based sales representatives, there may be other goals and strategies that this study has not identified. Nevertheless, these findings provide a useful snapshot of off-label marketing strategies and practices allegedly employed in the US over the past 15 years, which can now be used to develop new regulatory strategies aimed at effective oversight of off-label marketing. Importantly, however, these findings suggest that no regulatory strategy will be complete and effective unless physicians themselves fully understand the range of off-label marketing practices and their consequences for public health and act as a bulwark against continued efforts to engage in off-label promotion.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000431.
The US Food and Drug Administration provides detailed information about drug approval in the US for consumers and for health professionals; its Bad Ad Program aims to educate health care providers about the role they can play in ensuring that prescription drug advertising and promotion is truthful and not misleading.
The American Cancer Society has a page about off-label drug use
Wikipedia has pages on prescription drugs, on pharmaceutical marketing, and on off-label drug use (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
Taxpayers Against Fraud is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping whistleblowers, and it presents up-to-date information about False Claims Act cases
The Government Accountability Project is a nonprofit organization that seeks to promote corporate and government accountability by protecting whistleblowers, advancing occupational free speech, and empowering citizen activists
Healthy Skepticism is an international nonprofit membership association that aims to improve health by reducing harm from misleading health information
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000431
PMCID: PMC3071370  PMID: 21483716
8.  Publication of Clinical Trials Supporting Successful New Drug Applications: A Literature Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(9):e191.
Background
The United States (US) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves new drugs based on sponsor-submitted clinical trials. The publication status of these trials in the medical literature and factors associated with publication have not been evaluated. We sought to determine the proportion of trials submitted to the FDA in support of newly approved drugs that are published in biomedical journals that a typical clinician, consumer, or policy maker living in the US would reasonably search.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a cohort study of trials supporting new drugs approved between 1998 and 2000, as described in FDA medical and statistical review documents and the FDA approved drug label. We determined publication status and time from approval to full publication in the medical literature at 2 and 5 y by searching PubMed and other databases through 01 August 2006. We then evaluated trial characteristics associated with publication. We identified 909 trials supporting 90 approved drugs in the FDA reviews, of which 43% (394/909) were published. Among the subset of trials described in the FDA-approved drug label and classified as “pivotal trials” for our analysis, 76% (257/340) were published. In multivariable logistic regression for all trials 5 y postapproval, likelihood of publication correlated with statistically significant results (odds ratio [OR] 3.03, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.78–5.17); larger sample sizes (OR 1.33 per 2-fold increase in sample size, 95% CI 1.17–1.52); and pivotal status (OR 5.31, 95% CI 3.30–8.55). In multivariable logistic regression for only the pivotal trials 5 y postapproval, likelihood of publication correlated with statistically significant results (OR 2.96, 95% CI 1.24–7.06) and larger sample sizes (OR 1.47 per 2-fold increase in sample size, 95% CI 1.15–1.88). Statistically significant results and larger sample sizes were also predictive of publication at 2 y postapproval and in multivariable Cox proportional models for all trials and the subset of pivotal trials.
Conclusions
Over half of all supporting trials for FDA-approved drugs remained unpublished ≥ 5 y after approval. Pivotal trials and trials with statistically significant results and larger sample sizes are more likely to be published. Selective reporting of trial results exists for commonly marketed drugs. Our data provide a baseline for evaluating publication bias as the new FDA Amendments Act comes into force mandating basic results reporting of clinical trials.
Ida Sim and colleagues investigate the publication status and publication bias of trials submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a wide variety of approved drugs.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Before a new drug becomes available for the treatment of a specific human disease, its benefits and harms are carefully studied, first in the laboratory and in animals, and then in several types of clinical trials. In the most important of these trials—so-called “pivotal” clinical trials—the efficacy and safety of the new drug and of a standard treatment are compared by giving groups of patients the different treatments and measuring several predefined “outcomes.” These outcomes indicate whether the new drug is more effective than the standard treatment and whether it has any other effects on the patients' health and daily life. All this information is then submitted by the sponsor of the new drug (usually a pharmaceutical company) to the government body responsible for drug approval—in the US, this is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Why Was This Study Done?
After a drug receives FDA approval, information about the clinical trials supporting the FDA's decision are included in the FDA “Summary Basis of Approval” and/or on the drug label. In addition, some clinical trials are described in medical journals. Ideally, all the clinical information that leads to a drug's approval should be publicly available to help clinicians make informed decisions about how to treat their patients. A full-length publication in a medical journal is the primary way that clinical trial results are communicated to the scientific community and the public. Unfortunately, drug sponsors sometimes publish the results only of trials where their drug performed well; as a consequence, trials where the drug did no better than the standard treatment or where it had unwanted side effects remain unpublished. Publication bias like this provides an inaccurate picture of a drug's efficacy and safety relative to other therapies and may lead to excessive prescribing of newer, more expensive (but not necessarily more effective) treatments. In this study, the researchers investigate whether selective trial reporting is common by evaluating the publication status of trials submitted to the FDA for a wide variety of approved drugs. They also ask which factors affect a trial's chances of publication.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 90 drugs approved by the FDA between 1998 and 2000 by searching the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Web site. From the Summary Basis of Approval for each drug, they identified 909 clinical trials undertaken to support these approvals. They then searched the published medical literature up to mid-2006 to determine if and when the results of each trial were published. Although 76% of the pivotal trials had appeared in medical journals, usually within 3 years of FDA approval, only 43% of all of the submitted trials had been published. Among all the trials, those with statistically significant results were nearly twice as likely to have been published as those without statistically significant results, and pivotal trials were three times more likely to have been published as nonpivotal trials, 5 years postapproval. In addition, a larger sample size increased the likelihood of publication. Having statistically significant results and larger sample sizes also increased the likelihood of publication of the pivotal trials.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Although the search methods used in this study may have missed some publications, these findings suggest that more than half the clinical trials undertaken to support drug approval remain unpublished 5 years or more after FDA approval. They also reveal selective reporting of results. For example, they show that a pivotal trial in which the new drug does no better than an old drug is less likely to be published than one where the new drug is more effective, a publication bias that could establish an inappropriately favorable record for the new drug in the medical literature. Importantly, these findings provide a baseline for monitoring the effects of the FDA Amendments Act 2007, which was introduced to improve the accuracy and completeness of drug trial reporting. Under this Act, all trials supporting FDA-approved drugs must be registered when they start, and the summary results of all the outcomes declared at trial registration as well as specific details about the trial protocol must be publicly posted within a year of drug approval on the US National Institutes of Health clinical trials site.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050191.
PLoS Medicine recently published an editorial discussing the FDA Amendment Act and what it means for medical journals: The PLoS Medicine Editors (2008) Next Stop, Don't Block the Doors: Opening Up Access to Clinical Trials Results. PLoS Med 5(7): e160
The US Food and Drug Administration provides information about drug approval in the US for consumers and for health care professionals; detailed information about the process by which drugs are approved is on the Web site of the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (in English and Spanish)
ClinicalTrials.gov provides information about the US National Institutes of Health clinical trial registry, background information about clinical trials, and a fact sheet detailing the requirements of the FDA Amendments Act 2007 for trial registration
The World Health Organization's International Clinical Trials Registry Platform is working toward international norms and standards for reporting the findings of clinical trials
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050191
PMCID: PMC2553819  PMID: 18816163
9.  Methods for Specifying the Target Difference in a Randomised Controlled Trial: The Difference ELicitation in TriAls (DELTA) Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(5):e1001645.
Jonathan Cook and colleagues systematically reviewed the literature for methods of determining the target difference for use in calculating the necessary sample size for clinical trials, and discuss which methods are best for various types of trials.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) are widely accepted as the preferred study design for evaluating healthcare interventions. When the sample size is determined, a (target) difference is typically specified that the RCT is designed to detect. This provides reassurance that the study will be informative, i.e., should such a difference exist, it is likely to be detected with the required statistical precision. The aim of this review was to identify potential methods for specifying the target difference in an RCT sample size calculation.
Methods and Findings
A comprehensive systematic review of medical and non-medical literature was carried out for methods that could be used to specify the target difference for an RCT sample size calculation. The databases searched were MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process, EMBASE, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, the Cochrane Methodology Register, PsycINFO, Science Citation Index, EconLit, the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC), and Scopus (for in-press publications); the search period was from 1966 or the earliest date covered, to between November 2010 and January 2011. Additionally, textbooks addressing the methodology of clinical trials and International Conference on Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Registration of Pharmaceuticals for Human Use (ICH) tripartite guidelines for clinical trials were also consulted. A narrative synthesis of methods was produced. Studies that described a method that could be used for specifying an important and/or realistic difference were included. The search identified 11,485 potentially relevant articles from the databases searched. Of these, 1,434 were selected for full-text assessment, and a further nine were identified from other sources. Fifteen clinical trial textbooks and the ICH tripartite guidelines were also reviewed. In total, 777 studies were included, and within them, seven methods were identified—anchor, distribution, health economic, opinion-seeking, pilot study, review of the evidence base, and standardised effect size.
Conclusions
A variety of methods are available that researchers can use for specifying the target difference in an RCT sample size calculation. Appropriate methods may vary depending on the aim (e.g., specifying an important difference versus a realistic difference), context (e.g., research question and availability of data), and underlying framework adopted (e.g., Bayesian versus conventional statistical approach). Guidance on the use of each method is given. No single method provides a perfect solution for all contexts.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
A clinical trial is a research study in which human volunteers are randomized to receive a given intervention or not, and outcomes are measured in both groups to determine the effect of the intervention. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are widely accepted as the preferred study design because by randomly assigning participants to groups, any differences between the two groups, other than the intervention under study, are due to chance. To conduct a RCT, investigators calculate how many patients they need to enroll to determine whether the intervention is effective. The number of patients they need to enroll depends on how effective the intervention is expected to be, or would need to be in order to be clinically important. The assumed difference between the two groups is the target difference. A larger target difference generally means that fewer patients need to be enrolled, relative to a smaller target difference. The target difference and number of patients enrolled contribute to the study's statistical precision, and the ability of the study to determine whether the intervention is effective. Selecting an appropriate target difference is important from both a scientific and ethical standpoint.
Why Was This Study Done?
There are several ways to determine an appropriate target difference. The authors wanted to determine what methods for specifying the target difference are available and when they can be used.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
To identify studies that used a method for determining an important and/or realistic difference, the investigators systematically surveyed the research literature. Two reviewers screened each of the abstracts chosen, and a third reviewer was consulted if necessary. The authors identified seven methods to determine target differences. They evaluated the studies to establish similarities and differences of each application. Points about the strengths and limitations of the method and how frequently the method was chosen were also noted.
What Do these Findings Mean?
The study draws attention to an understudied but important part of designing a clinical trial. Enrolling the right number of patients is very important—too few patients and the study may not be able to answer the study question; too many and the study will be more expensive and more difficult to conduct, and will unnecessarily expose more patients to any study risks. The target difference may also be helpful in interpreting the results of the trial. The authors discuss the pros and cons of different ways to calculate target differences and which methods are best for which types of studies, to help inform researchers designing such studies.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001645.
Wikipedia has an entry on sample size determination that discusses the factors that influence sample size calculation, including the target difference and the statistical power of a study (statistical power is the ability of a study to find a difference between treatments when a true difference exists). (Note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages.)
The University of Ottawa has an article that explains how different factors influence the power of a study
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001645
PMCID: PMC4019477  PMID: 24824338
10.  Interactions between Medical Residents and Drug Companies: A National Survey after the Mediator® Affair 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e104828.
Background
The present study aimed to describe exposure and attitudes of French medical residents towards pharmaceutical industry. The study was performed shortly after the Mediator affair which revealed several serious conflicts of interest inside the French health system.
Methods and Findings
A cross-sectional study was implemented among residents from 6 French medical faculties. Independent education in pharmacology, attitudes towards the practices of pharmaceutical sales representatives, opinions concerning the pharmaceutical industry, quality of information provided by the pharmaceutical industry, and opinions about pharmaceutical company sponsorship were investigated through a web-based questionnaire. We also assessed potential changes in resident attitudes following the Mediator affair. The mean value of exposure to drug companies was 1.9 times per month. Global opinions towards drug company information were negative for 42.7% of the residents and positive for only 8.2%. Surprisingly, 81.6% of residents claimed that they had not changed their practices regarding drug information since the Mediator affair. Multivariate analyses found that residents in anesthesiology were less likely to be exposed than others (OR = 0.17 CI95% [0.05–0.61]), exposure was significantly higher at the beginning of residence (p<0.001) and residents who had a more positive opinion were more frequently exposed to drug companies (OR = 2.12 CI95% [1.07–4.22]).
Conclusions
Resident exposure to drug companies is around 1 contact every 2 weeks. Global opinion towards drug information provided by pharmaceutical companies was negative for around 1 out of 2 residents. In contrast, residents tend to consider the influences of the Mediator affair on their practice as relatively low. This survey enabled us to identify profiles of residents who are obviously less exposed to pharmaceutical industry. Current regulatory provisions are not sufficient, indicating that further efforts are necessary to develop a culture of disclosure of conflict of interest and of transparency in residents.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0104828
PMCID: PMC4184806  PMID: 25279555
11.  Trial Publication after Registration in ClinicalTrials.Gov: A Cross-Sectional Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(9):e1000144.
Joseph Ross and colleagues examine publication rates of clinical trials and find low rates of publication even following registration in Clinicaltrials.gov.
Background
ClinicalTrials.gov is a publicly accessible, Internet-based registry of clinical trials managed by the US National Library of Medicine that has the potential to address selective trial publication. Our objectives were to examine completeness of registration within ClinicalTrials.gov and to determine the extent and correlates of selective publication.
Methods and Findings
We examined reporting of registration information among a cross-section of trials that had been registered at ClinicalTrials.gov after December 31, 1999 and updated as having been completed by June 8, 2007, excluding phase I trials. We then determined publication status among a random 10% subsample by searching MEDLINE using a systematic protocol, after excluding trials completed after December 31, 2005 to allow at least 2 y for publication following completion. Among the full sample of completed trials (n = 7,515), nearly 100% reported all data elements mandated by ClinicalTrials.gov, such as intervention and sponsorship. Optional data element reporting varied, with 53% reporting trial end date, 66% reporting primary outcome, and 87% reporting trial start date. Among the 10% subsample, less than half (311 of 677, 46%) of trials were published, among which 96 (31%) provided a citation within ClinicalTrials.gov of a publication describing trial results. Trials primarily sponsored by industry (40%, 144 of 357) were less likely to be published when compared with nonindustry/nongovernment sponsored trials (56%, 110 of 198; p<0.001), but there was no significant difference when compared with government sponsored trials (47%, 57 of 122; p = 0.22). Among trials that reported an end date, 75 of 123 (61%) completed prior to 2004, 50 of 96 (52%) completed during 2004, and 62 of 149 (42%) completed during 2005 were published (p = 0.006).
Conclusions
Reporting of optional data elements varied and publication rates among completed trials registered within ClinicalTrials.gov were low. Without greater attention to reporting of all data elements, the potential for ClinicalTrials.gov to address selective publication of clinical trials will be limited.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
People assume that whenever they are ill, health care professionals will make sure they get the best available treatment. But how do clinicians know which treatment is most appropriate? In the past, clinicians used their own experience to make treatment decisions. Nowadays, they rely on evidence-based medicine—the systematic review and appraisal of the results of clinical trials, studies that investigate the efficacy and safety of medical interventions in people. However, evidence-based medicine can only be effective if all the results from clinical trials are published promptly in medical journals. Unfortunately, the results of trials in which a new drug did not perform better than existing drugs or in which it had unwanted side effects often remain unpublished or only appear in the public domain many years after the drug has been approved for clinical use by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other governmental bodies.
Why Was This Study Done?
The extent of this “selective” publication, which can impair evidence-based clinical practice, remains unclear but is thought to be substantial. In this study, the researchers investigate the problem of selective publication by systematically examining the extent of publication of the results of trials registered in ClinicalTrials.gov, a Web-based registry of US and international clinical trials. ClinicalTrials.gov was established in 2000 by the US National Library of Medicine in response to the 1997 FDA Modernization Act. This act required preregistration of all trials of new drugs to provide the public with information about trials in which they might be able to participate. Mandatory data elements for registration in ClinicalTrials.gov initially included the trial's title, the condition studied in the trial, the trial design, and the intervention studied. In September 2007, the FDA Amendments Act expanded the mandatory requirements for registration in ClinicalTrials.gov by making it necessary, for example, to report the trial start date and to report primary and secondary outcomes (the effect of the intervention on predefined clinical measurements) in the registry within 2 years of trial completion.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 7,515 trials that were registered within ClinicalTrials.gov after December 31, 1999 (excluding phase I, safety trials), and whose record indicated trial completion by June 8, 2007. Most of these trials reported all the mandatory data elements that were required by ClinicalTrials.gov before the FDA Amendments Act but reporting of optional data elements was less complete. For example, only two-thirds of the trials reported their primary outcome. Next, the researchers randomly selected 10% of the trials and, after excluding trials whose completion date was after December 31, 2005 (to allow at least two years for publication), determined the publication status of this subsample by systematically searching MEDLINE (an online database of articles published in selected medical and scientific journals). Fewer than half of the trials in the subsample had been published, and the citation for only a third of these publications had been entered into ClinicalTrials.gov. Only 40% of industry-sponsored trials had been published compared to 56% of nonindustry/nongovernment-sponsored trials, a difference that is unlikely to have occurred by chance. Finally, 61% of trials with a completion date before 2004 had been published, but only 42% of trials completed during 2005 had been published.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that, over the period studied, critical trial information was not included in the ClinicalTrials.gov registry. The FDA Amendments Act should remedy some of these shortcomings but only if the accuracy and completeness of the information in ClinicalTrials.gov is carefully monitored. These findings also reveal that registration in ClinicalTrials.gov does not guarantee that trial results will appear in a timely manner in the scientific literature. However, they do not address the reasons for selective publication (which may be, in part, because it is harder to publish negative results than positive results), and they are potentially limited by the methods used to discover whether trial results had been published. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that the FDA, trial sponsors, and the scientific community all need to make a firm commitment to minimize the selective publication of trial results to ensure that patients and clinicians have access to the information they need to make fully informed treatment decisions.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000144.
PLoS Medicine recently published two related articles on selected publication by Ida Sim and colleagues and by Lisa Bero and colleagues and an editorial discussing the FDA Amendments Act
ClinicalTrials.gov provides information about the US National Institutes of Health clinical trial registry, including background information about clinical trials, and a fact sheet detailing the requirements of the FDA Amendments Act 2007 for trial registration
The US Food and Drug Administration provides further information about drug approval in the US for consumers and health care professionals
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000144
PMCID: PMC2728480  PMID: 19901971
12.  Recent trends in the impurity profile of pharmaceuticals 
Various regulatory authorities such as the International Conference on Harmonization (ICH), the United States Food and Drug administration (FDA), and the Canadian Drug and Health Agency (CDHA) are emphasizing on the purity requirements and the identification of impurities in Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs). The various sources of impurity in pharmaceutical products are — reagents, heavy metals, ligands, catalysts, other materials like filter aids, charcoal, and the like, degraded end products obtained during \ after manufacturing of bulk drugs from hydrolysis, photolytic cleavage, oxidative degradation, decarboxylation, enantiomeric impurity, and so on. The different pharmacopoeias such as the British Pharmacopoeia, United State Pharmacopoeia, and Indian Pharmacopoeia are slowly incorporating limits to allowable levels of impurities present in APIs or formulations. Various methods are used to isolate and characterize impurities in pharmaceuticals, such as, capillary electrophoresis, electron paramagnetic resonance, gas–liquid chromatography, gravimetric analysis, high performance liquid chromatography, solid-phase extraction methods, liquid–liquid extraction method, Ultraviolet Spectrometry, infrared spectroscopy, supercritical fluid extraction column chromatography, mass spectrometry, Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, and RAMAN spectroscopy. Among all hyphenated techniques, the most exploited techniques for impurity profiling of drugs are Liquid Chromatography (LC)-Mass Spectroscopy (MS), LC-NMR, LC-NMR-MS, GC-MS, and LC-MS. This reveals the need and scope of impurity profiling of drugs in pharmaceutical research.
doi:10.4103/0110-5558.72422
PMCID: PMC3255420  PMID: 22247862
Characterization; chromatography; identification; impurities; NMR; mass spectrometry
13.  GCP inspections in Germany and Europe following the implementation of the Directive 2001/20/EC 
Background: The implementation of the Clinical Trials Directive 2001/20/EC and the Good Clinical Practice Directive 2005/28/EC fundamentally restructured and harmonized the conduct of clinical trials in Europe. GCP inspections – which affect study sites, laboratories, sponsors and contract research organizations (CRO) alike – make up an important part of these regulations. A common understanding of how these regulations apply in daily life is however not always ensured.
Methods: A working group of the Clinical Research/Quality Assurance subcommittee of the German Association of Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (VFA) was established to outline the regulatory requirements, the experience gathered with inspections by means of a survey and to set up guidance on how to manage an inspection.
Results and conclusions: The survey, conducted with the help of 15 pharmaceutical companies within the VFA, included a total of 224 inspections (74 inspections in Germany, 150 from other European countries). Most frequent findings in and outside Germany were related to “documentation” (40.5% vs. 21.3%), “investigational new drugs” (16.2% vs. 14.7%), “drug safety” (13.5% vs. 8%) and “application for a clinical trial authorization” (5.4% vs. 12%).
From a German perspective, key findings of this working group were the necessity for a clear differentiation of responsibilities between national and federal as well as international authorities, a harmonization of inspection procedures and topics, and a clarification of whether pre-study/on-study and pre-approval/post-approval GCP inspections of the federal higher authority are included in the “Zentralstelle der Länder für Gesundheitsschutz bei Arzneimitteln und Medizinprodukten” (ZLG) requirements. The survey illustrated, that inspections usually are conducted at the investigational site, and that most of the findings are well known and thus could be prevented by communicating and discussing audit results more intensely within study groups. Again, the survey illustrated, that a harmonization of inspections appears warranted. Finally a code of practice is provided that considers these findings and delivers a basis for a successful inspection whether at the sponsor or the GCP site.
doi:10.3205/000060
PMCID: PMC2716552  PMID: 19675741
GCP inspection; Implementation Directive 2001/20/EC; frequency; survey; sponsor inspection; code of practice
14.  FIP Position Paper on Qualification of Paddle and Basket Dissolution Apparatus 
AAPS PharmSciTech  2009;10(3):924-927.
The qualification process for ensuring that a paddle or basket apparatus is suitable for its intended use is a highly debated and controversial topic. Different instrument qualification and suitability methods have been proposed by the pharmacopeias and regulatory bodies. In an effort to internationally harmonize dissolution apparatus suitability requirements, the International Pharmaceutical Federation's (FIP) Dissolution/Drug Release Special Interest Group (SIG) reviewed current instrument suitability requirements listed in the US, European, and Japanese pharmacopeias and the International Conference on Harmonization (ICH) Topic Q4B on harmonization of pharmacopoeial methods, in its Annex 7, Dissolution Test General. In addition, the SIG reviewed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Draft Guidance for Industry, “The Use of Mechanical Calibration of Dissolution Apparatus 1 and 2—Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP)” and the related ASTM Standard E2503-07. Based on this review and several in-depth discussions, the FIP Dissolution/Drug Release SIG recommends that the qualification of a dissolution test instrument should be performed following the calibration requirements as indicated in the FDA (draft) guidance. If additional system performance information is desired, a performance verification test using US Pharmacopeia Reference Standard tablet or an established in-house reference product can be conducted. Any strict requirement on the use of a specific performance verification test tablet is not recommended at this time.
doi:10.1208/s12249-009-9291-5
PMCID: PMC2802143  PMID: 19609681
basket apparatus; chemical qualification; dissolution; mechanical qualification; paddle apparatus; performance verification test
15.  Meeting Report: Metabolites in Safety Testing (MIST) Symposium—Safety Assessment of Human Metabolites: What’s REALLY Necessary to Ascertain Exposure Coverage in Safety Tests? 
The AAPS Journal  2013;15(4):970-973.
In the 2012 AAPS metabolites in safety testing (MIST) symposium held in Chicago, IL, USA, on October 15, 2012, regulatory experts and industrial scientists joined together to discuss their perspectives and strategies in addressing contemporary MIST recommendations (FDA 2008, International Conference on Harmonization (ICH) M3(R2), ICH M(R2) Q&A). Overall, these regulatory guidances indicate that metabolites identified in human plasma should circulate at similar or greater concentrations in at least one of the animal species used in nonclinical safety assessment of the parent drug. However, synthetic standards for the metabolites often do not exist or they are intractable to synthesize, thus introducing multiple challenges in drug development for the quantitative comparison of metabolites between human and animals. A tiered bioanalytical strategy for metabolite analysis is a prevalent approach to demonstrate coverage in animals. Recent developments in bioanalytical methodology have yielded several time- and resource-sparing strategies to provide fit-for-purpose approaches that can enable critical decisions related to metabolite quantification and monitoring in plasma. This report summarizes the presentations and panel discussions at the symposium.
doi:10.1208/s12248-013-9502-6
PMCID: PMC3787210  PMID: 23821354
MIST; safety assessment of human metabolites; metabolite exposure coverage in safety test; ICH M3(R2); LC/MS/MS
16.  The Views of Healthcare Professionals, Drug Developers and Regulators on Information about Older People Needed for Rational Drug Prescription 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e72060.
Background
The ICH E7 guideline intends to improve the knowledge about medicines in geriatric patients. As a legislative document, it might not reflect the needs of healthcare professionals. This study investigated what information healthcare professionals, regulatory agencies and pharmaceutical industries consider necessary for rational drug prescribing to older individuals.
Methods and Findings
A 29-item-questionnaire was composed, considering the representation in trials, pharmacokinetics, efficacy, safety, and convenience of use in older individuals, with space for additions. Forty-three European professionals with an interest in medication for older individuals were included. In order to investigate their relevance, five items were included in a second questionnaire, with 11 control items. Median scores, differences between clinical and non-clinical respondents and response consistency were analysed. Consistency was present in 10 control items. Therefore, all items of the first questionnaire and the five additional items were analysed. Thirty-seven (86%) respondents returned the first questionnaire; 31/37 (84%) the second. Information about age-related differences in adverse events, locomotor effects, drug-disease interactions, dosing instructions, and information about the proportion of included 65+ patients was considered necessary by most respondents. Clinicians considered information significantly more important than the non-clinical respondents about the inclusion of 75+, time-until-benefit in older people, anticholinergic effects, drug-disease interactions, and convenience of use. Main study limitations are the focus on information for daily practice, while the ICH E7 guideline is a legislative document focused on market approval of a new medicine. Also, a questionnaire with a Likert scale has its limitations; this was addressed by providing space for comments.
Conclusions
This study reveals that items considered necessary are currently not included in the ICH E7 guideline. Also, clinicians’ and non-clinicians’ opinions differed significantly in 15% of the items. Therefore, all stakeholders should collaborate to improve the availability of information for the rational prescribing to older individuals.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0072060
PMCID: PMC3745417  PMID: 23977208
17.  Implications of ICH-E5: Assessment of drug's sensitivity to ethnic factors and necessity of a bridging study for global drug development 
The ICH-E5 guideline provides a general framework for evaluating the potential impact of ethnic factors on the acceptability of foreign clinical data, with the underlying objective of minimizing duplication of clinical data, and it also describes the requirement of bridging studies for extrapolation of foreign clinical data to a new region. The ICH-E5 guideline brought great change in concept and strategy of global drug development for pharmaceutical companies. The procedures described in the ICH-E5 guideline have proved useful in the assessment of the ethnic sensitivity of a medicinal product that is to be introduced to a foreign region for registration purpose. Many companies are now developing various products based on ICH-E5 strategies and many successful cases will continuously appear within coming years.
doi:10.4103/2229-3485.86874
PMCID: PMC3227328  PMID: 22145121
Bridging study; ethnic factors; global drug development; ICH-E5
18.  Globalization of Alzheimer's disease clinical trials 
Alzheimer's disease (AD) therapies are increasingly being tested in global clinical trials. A search of ClincalTrials.gov revealed that of 269 currently active trials, 28% are currently being conducted in the United States; the majority of trials and the majority of trial sites are ex-US. The US has the largest number of trial sites of any single country; cumulatively, nearly half of all sites are outside the US. The US conducts more trials in all phases of drug development but has a greater proportion of phase 3 trials. The increasing importance of global participants in clinical trials emphasizes the importance of considering the ethnic and international factors that may influence trial outcome. The International Conference on Harmonization guidelines divide ethnic factors that may affect drug development into intrinsic and extrinsic influences. These include language, cultural factors, educational levels, the general level of health and standard of care, as well as nutrition and diet. Ethnic influences on pharmacokinetics are known for some metabolic pathways. The biology of AD may also differ among the world's populations. The frequency of the apolipoprotein e4 allele, a major risk factor for AD, differs internationally. Genetic variations might also affect inflammatory, excitotoxic, and oxidative components of AD. Diagnostic standards and experience vary from country to country. Levels of practitioner training and experience, diagnostic approaches to AD, and attitudes regarding aging and AD may differ. Experience and sophistication with regard to clinical trial conduct also vary within and between countries. Experience with conducting the necessary examinations, as well as the linguistic and cultural validity of instrument translations, may affect trial outcomes. Operational and regulatory aspects of clinical trials vary and provide important barriers to seamless conduct of multiregional clinical trials. Collection and testing of biological samples, continuous provision of drug substance, and protection of the integrity of supply lines may be difficult in some international circumstances. Attention to these potential influences on clinical trials will determine the success of global drug development programs and the utility of global trials for developing new AD therapeutics.
doi:10.1186/alzrt86
PMCID: PMC3226279  PMID: 21861855
19.  American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists National Biotechnology Conference Short Course: Translational Challenges in Developing Antibody-Drug Conjugates 
mAbs  2013;5(1):5-12.
The American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS) National Biotechnology Conference Short Course “Translational Challenges in Developing Antibody-Drug Conjugates (ADCs),” held May 24, 2012 in San Diego, CA, was organized by members of the Pharmacokinetics, Pharmacodynamics and Drug Metabolism section of AAPS. Representatives from the pharmaceutical industry, regulatory authorities, and academia in the US and Europe attended this short course to discuss the translational challenges in ADC development and the importance of characterizing these molecules early in development to achieve therapeutic utility in patients. Other areas of discussion included selection of target antigens; characterization of absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion; assay development and hot topics like regulatory perspectives and the role of pharmacometrics in ADC development. MUC16-targeted ADCs were discussed to illustrate challenges in preclinical development; experiences with trastuzumab emtansine (T-DM1; Genentech) and the recently approved brentuximab vedotin (Adcetris®; Seattle Genetics) were presented in depth to demonstrate considerations in clinical development. The views expressed in this report are those of the participants and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliations.
doi:10.4161/mabs.22909
PMCID: PMC3564886  PMID: 23255090
ADC; pharmacokinetics; linker; trastuzumab emtansine; brentuximab vedotin
20.  Validation of analytical methods in GMP: the disposable Fast Read 102® device, an alternative practical approach for cell counting 
Background
The quality and safety of advanced therapy products must be maintained throughout their production and quality control cycle to ensure their final use in patients. We validated the cell count method according to the International Conference on Harmonization of Technical Requirements for Registration of Pharmaceuticals for Human Use and European Pharmacopoeia, considering the tests’ accuracy, precision, repeatability, linearity and range.
Methods
As the cell count is a potency test, we checked accuracy, precision, and linearity, according to ICH Q2. Briefly our experimental approach was first to evaluate the accuracy of Fast Read 102® compared to the Bürker chamber. Once the accuracy of the alternative method was demonstrated, we checked the precision and linearity test only using Fast Read 102®. The data were statistically analyzed by average, standard deviation and coefficient of variation percentages inter and intra operator.
Results
All the tests performed met the established acceptance criteria of a coefficient of variation of less than ten percent. For the cell count, the precision reached by each operator had a coefficient of variation of less than ten percent (total cells) and under five percent (viable cells). The best range of dilution, to obtain a slope line value very similar to 1, was between 1:8 and 1:128.
Conclusions
Our data demonstrated that the Fast Read 102® count method is accurate, precise and ensures the linearity of the results obtained in a range of cell dilution. Under our standard method procedures, this assay may thus be considered a good quality control method for the cell count as a batch release quality control test. Moreover, the Fast Read 102® chamber is a plastic, disposable device that allows a number of samples to be counted in the same chamber. Last but not least, it overcomes the problem of chamber washing after use and so allows a cell count in a clean environment such as that in a Cell Factory. In a good manufacturing practice setting the disposable cell counting devices will allow a single use of the count chamber they can then be thrown away, thus avoiding the waste disposal of vital dye (e.g. Trypan Blue) or lysing solution (e.g. Tuerk solution).
doi:10.1186/1479-5876-10-112
PMCID: PMC3502295  PMID: 22650233
Cell count; Cell factory; Cell therapy; Validation methods; GMP
21.  Photostability and toxicity of finasteride, diclofenac and naproxen under simulating sunlight exposure: evaluation of the toxicity trend and of the packaging photoprotection 
Background
Drugs photostability plays two different opposite roles; a real advantage arises considering the longer expiration time of the drugs while the consequent persistence in the environment involves an obvious negative effect bound to their harmfulness.
On this basis we tested the photostability and toxicity of three pharmaceutical active principles: Finasteride, Diclofenac and Naproxen. The pure active principles, as well as commercial drugs containing them, were considered; for the last, the protective effect of the packaging was also evaluated. Samples were irradiated according to the ICH Guidelines for photostability testing (The International Conference on Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Registration of Pharmaceuticals for Human Use); a simulating sunlight source (a mercury-vapor lamp coupled to a tungsten filament one) was used to cover the wavelength range 300–2000 nm; Temperature, Relative Humidity, Irradiance and Illuminance were maintained constant during the photodegradation. The concentrations of the pharmaceutical active principles during the photodegradation were monitored by HPLC with UV/Vis detector. Toxicity tests were performed by means of an amperometric biosensor based on suspended yeast cells. Since the products obtained by the photodegradation process can result as toxic or more toxic than the original molecules, tests were performed first and after the photodegadation.
Results
After 90 hours of exposure the concentration resulted lowered by 42.9%, 88.4% and 91% for Finasteride, Naproxen and Diclofenac respectively. Toxicity of the pure active principles follows the same order of the photostability. After photodegradation a contribute of the reaction products was evidenced.
Conclusions
The simple and cheap analytical procedure here proposed, allowed to obtain not only data on photostability and toxicity of the pure active principles but, even if roughly, also useful information on the reactions kinetic and toxicity of the photodegradation products.
doi:10.1186/1752-153X-7-181
PMCID: PMC3881013  PMID: 24325844
Photostability; Toxicity; Packaging; Finasteride; Diclofenac; Naproxen
22.  Registration of Clinical Trials: Is it Really Needed? 
Background and Aims:
Withholding findings of clinical trials for publication or presentation to the regulatory authorities is a major concern. We aimed to address the importance of clinical trial registration and whether it is needed or not.
Discussion:
For ethical conduct of clinical trial, registration is an important but debatable issue due to proprietary interest of the pharmaceutical industry. Over the years, investigating agencies uncovered several instances of misconduct during the clinical trial. The International committee of medical journal editors requires registration of trial methodology, but does not require registration of trial results; however, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Amendments does require researchers to register results.
Conclusion:
Prospective registration of clinical trial is mandatory for more transparent research and sustaining the validity of evidence based practice and availability of reliable data. Clinical trials registration has the potential to contribute substantially to improve clinical trial transparency and reducing publication bias and selective reporting.
doi:10.4103/1947-2714.123266
PMCID: PMC3877534  PMID: 24404555
Clinical trials; Ethics; Healthcare; Registration; Research
23.  A Collaborative Epidemiological Investigation into the Criminal Fake Artesunate Trade in South East Asia  
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(2):e32.
Background
Since 1998 the serious public health problem in South East Asia of counterfeit artesunate, containing no or subtherapeutic amounts of the active antimalarial ingredient, has led to deaths from untreated malaria, reduced confidence in this vital drug, large economic losses for the legitimate manufacturers, and concerns that artemisinin resistance might be engendered.
Methods and Findings
With evidence of a deteriorating situation, a group of police, criminal analysts, chemists, palynologists, and health workers collaborated to determine the source of these counterfeits under the auspices of the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) and the Western Pacific World Health Organization Regional Office. A total of 391 samples of genuine and counterfeit artesunate collected in Vietnam (75), Cambodia (48), Lao PDR (115), Myanmar (Burma) (137) and the Thai/Myanmar border (16), were available for analysis. Sixteen different fake hologram types were identified. High-performance liquid chromatography and/or mass spectrometry confirmed that all specimens thought to be counterfeit (195/391, 49.9%) on the basis of packaging contained no or small quantities of artesunate (up to 12 mg per tablet as opposed to ∼ 50 mg per genuine tablet). Chemical analysis demonstrated a wide diversity of wrong active ingredients, including banned pharmaceuticals, such as metamizole, and safrole, a carcinogen, and raw material for manufacture of methylenedioxymethamphetamine (‘ecstasy'). Evidence from chemical, mineralogical, biological, and packaging analysis suggested that at least some of the counterfeits were manufactured in southeast People's Republic of China. This evidence prompted the Chinese Government to act quickly against the criminal traders with arrests and seizures.
Conclusions
An international multi-disciplinary group obtained evidence that some of the counterfeit artesunate was manufactured in China, and this prompted a criminal investigation. International cross-disciplinary collaborations may be appropriate in the investigation of other serious counterfeit medicine public health problems elsewhere, but strengthening of international collaborations and forensic and drug regulatory authority capacity will be required.
Paul Newton and colleagues' international, collaborative study found evidence that counterfeit artesunate was being manufactured in China, which prompted a criminal investigation.
Editors' Summary
Background
Malaria is one of the world's largest public health problems, causing around 500 million cases of illness and at least one million deaths per year (the estimates vary widely). The most serious form of malaria is caused by the parasite Plasmodium falciparum, which has become resistant to multiple drugs that had previously been the cornerstones of antimalarial regimens. One group of drugs for treating malaria, the artemisinin therapies including artesunate, are based upon a Chinese herb called qinghaosu; these have now become vital to the treatment of P. falciparum malaria. But counterfeit artesunate, containing none or too little (“subtherapeutic levels”) of the active ingredient, is a growing problem especially in South and East Asia. Fake artesunate is devastating for malaria control: it causes avoidable death, reduces confidence in the drug, and takes away profit from legitimate manufacturers. Of major concern also is the potential for subtherapeutic counterfeit artesunate to fuel the parasite's resistance to the artemisinin group of drugs.
Previous estimates have suggested that between 33% and 53% of artesunate tablets in mainland South East Asia are counterfeit. In this paper the authors report on an unprecedented international collaboration and criminal investigation that attempted to quantify and source counterfeit artesunate among some of the most malarious countries in Asia.
Why Was This Study Done?
Previous reports have identified the problem of fake artesunate, but as of yet there have been few reports on the potential solutions. Concerned health workers and scientists, the regional World Health Organization (WHO) office and the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) got together to discuss what could be done in May 2005 when it became clear the counterfeit artesunate situation was worsening in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region of South East Asia (comprising Cambodia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and Yunnan Province in the People's Republic of China). Their subsequent investigation combined the goals and methods of a range of concerned parties—police, scientists, and health workers—to identify the source of counterfeit artesunate in South East Asia and to supply the evidence to help arrest and prosecute the perpetrators.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers conducted forensic analyses of samples of genuine and counterfeit artesunate. They selected these samples from larger surveys and investigations that had been conducted in the region beginning in the year 2000. Genuine samples were supplied by a manufacturer to provide a comparator. The authors examined the physical appearance of the packages and subjected the tablets to a wide range of chemical and biological tests that allowed an analysis of the components contained in the tablets.
When comparing the collected packages and tablets against the genuine samples, the researchers found considerable diversity of fake artesunate in SE Asia. Sixteen different fake hologram types (the stickers contained on packages meant to identify them as genuine) were found. Chemical analysis revealed that all tablets thought to be fake contained no or very small quantities of artesunate. Other ingredients found in the artesunate counterfeit tablets included paracetamol, antibiotics, older antimalarial drugs, and a range of minerals, and there were a variety of gases surrounding the tablets inside the packaging. Biological analyses of pollen grains inside the packaging suggested that the packages originated in the parts of South East Asia along the Chinese border.
What Do these Findings Mean?
The results were crucial in helping the authorities establish the origin of the fake artesunate. For example, the authors identified two regional clusters where the counterfeit tablets appeared to be coming from, thus flagging a potential manufacturing site or distribution network. The presence of wrong active pharmaceutical ingredients (such as the older antimalarial drugs) suggested the counterfeiters had access to a variety of active pharmaceutical ingredients. The presence of safrole, a precursor to the illicit drug ecstasy, suggested the counterfeits may be coming from factories that manufacture ecstasy. And the identification of minerals indigenous to certain regions also helped identify the counterfeits' origin. The researchers concluded that at least some of the counterfeit artesunate was coming from southern China. The Secretary General of INTERPOL presented the findings to the Chinese government, which then carried out a criminal investigation and arrested individuals alleged to have produced and distributed the counterfeit artesunate.
The collaboration between police, public health workers and scientists on combating fake artesunate is unique, and provides a model for others to follow. However, the authors note that substantial capacity in forensic analysis and the infrastructure to support collaborations between these different disciplines are needed.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050032.
The World Health Organization in 2006 created IMPACT—International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce—with the aim of forging international collaboration to seek global solutions to this global challenge and in raising awareness of the dangers of counterfeit medical products. The task force membership includes international organizations, nongovernmental organizations, enforcement agencies, pharmaceutical manufacturers' associations, and drug and regulatory authorities. IMPACT's Web site notes that trade in counterfeit medicines is widespread and affects both developed and developing countries but is more prevalent in countries that have weak drug regulatory systems, poor supply of basic medicines, unregulated markets, high drug prices and/or significant price differentials. IMPACT holds international conferences and maintains a rapid alert system for counterfeit drugs.
The drug industry's anticounterfeit organization, Pharmaceutical Security Institute, works to develop improved systems to identify the extent of the counterfeiting problem and to assist in coordinating international inquiries. Its membership includes 21 large pharmaceutical companies.
The Web site of David Pizzanelli, a world expert on security holography, contains a PowerPoint presentation co-authored by Paul Newton that illustrates the different types of fake holograms found on fake artesunate packages, and their implications for artemisinin resistance (http://www.pizzanelli.co.uk/content/artesunate.html).
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050032
PMCID: PMC2235893  PMID: 18271620
24.  Supervised and Unsupervised Self-Testing for HIV in High- and Low-Risk Populations: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(4):e1001414.
By systematically reviewing the literature, Nitika Pant Pai and colleagues assess the evidence base for HIV self tests both with and without supervision.
Background
Stigma, discrimination, lack of privacy, and long waiting times partly explain why six out of ten individuals living with HIV do not access facility-based testing. By circumventing these barriers, self-testing offers potential for more people to know their sero-status. Recent approval of an in-home HIV self test in the US has sparked self-testing initiatives, yet data on acceptability, feasibility, and linkages to care are limited. We systematically reviewed evidence on supervised (self-testing and counselling aided by a health care professional) and unsupervised (performed by self-tester with access to phone/internet counselling) self-testing strategies.
Methods and Findings
Seven databases (Medline [via PubMed], Biosis, PsycINFO, Cinahl, African Medicus, LILACS, and EMBASE) and conference abstracts of six major HIV/sexually transmitted infections conferences were searched from 1st January 2000–30th October 2012. 1,221 citations were identified and 21 studies included for review. Seven studies evaluated an unsupervised strategy and 14 evaluated a supervised strategy. For both strategies, data on acceptability (range: 74%–96%), preference (range: 61%–91%), and partner self-testing (range: 80%–97%) were high. A high specificity (range: 99.8%–100%) was observed for both strategies, while a lower sensitivity was reported in the unsupervised (range: 92.9%–100%; one study) versus supervised (range: 97.4%–97.9%; three studies) strategy. Regarding feasibility of linkage to counselling and care, 96% (n = 102/106) of individuals testing positive for HIV stated they would seek post-test counselling (unsupervised strategy, one study). No extreme adverse events were noted. The majority of data (n = 11,019/12,402 individuals, 89%) were from high-income settings and 71% (n = 15/21) of studies were cross-sectional in design, thus limiting our analysis.
Conclusions
Both supervised and unsupervised testing strategies were highly acceptable, preferred, and more likely to result in partner self-testing. However, no studies evaluated post-test linkage with counselling and treatment outcomes and reporting quality was poor. Thus, controlled trials of high quality from diverse settings are warranted to confirm and extend these findings.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
About 34 million people (most living in resource-limited countries) are currently infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and about 2.5 million people become infected with HIV every year. HIV is usually transmitted through unprotected sex with an infected partner. HIV infection is usually diagnosed by looking for antibodies to HIV in blood or saliva. Early during infection, the immune system responds to HIV by beginning to make antibodies that recognize the virus and target it for destruction. “Seroconversion”—the presence of detectable amounts of antibody in the blood or saliva—usually takes 6–12 weeks. Rapid antibody-based tests, which do not require laboratory facilities, can provide a preliminary result about an individual's HIV status from a simple oral swab or finger stick sample within 20 minutes. However preliminary rapid positive results have to be confirmed in a laboratory, which may take a few days or weeks. If positive, HIV infection can be controlled but not cured by taking a daily cocktail of powerful antiretroviral drugs throughout life.
Why Was This Study Done?
To reduce the spread of HIV, it is essential that HIV-positive individuals get tested, change behaviors avoid transmitting the virus to other people by, for example, always using a condom during sex, and if positive get on to treatment that is available worldwide. Treatment also reduces transmission of virus to the partner and controls the virus in the community. However, only half the people currently living with HIV know their HIV status, a state of affairs that increases the possibility of further HIV transmission to their partners and children. HIV positive individuals are diagnosed late with advanced HIV infection that costs health care services. Although health care facility-based HIV testing has been available for decades, people worry about stigma, visibility, and social discrimination. They also dislike the lack of privacy and do not like having to wait for their test results. Self-testing (i.e., self-test conduct and interpretation) might alleviate some of these barriers to testing by allowing individuals to determine their HIV status in the privacy of their home and could, therefore, increase the number of individuals aware of their HIV status. This could possibly reduce transmission and, through seeking linkages to care, bring HIV under control in communities. In some communities and countries, stigma of HIV prevents people from taking action about their HIV status. Indeed, an oral (saliva-based) HIV self-test kit is now available in the US. But how acceptable, feasible, and accurate is self-testing by lay people, and will people who find themselves self-test positive seek counseling and treatment? In this systematic review (a study that uses pre-defined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic), the researchers examine these issues by analyzing data from studies that have evaluated supervised self-testing (self-testing and counseling aided by a health-care professional) and unsupervised self-testing (self-testing performed without any help but with counseling available by phone or internet).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 21 eligible studies, two-thirds of which evaluated oral self-testing and a third of which evaluated blood-based self-testing. Seven studies evaluated an unsupervised self-testing strategy and 14 evaluated a supervised strategy. Most of the data (89%) came from studies undertaken in high-income settings. The study populations varied from those at high risk of HIV infection to low-risk general populations. Across the studies, acceptability (defined as the number of people who actually self-tested divided by the number who consented to self-test) ranged from 74% to 96%. With both strategies, the specificity of self-testing (the chance of an HIV-negative person receiving a negative test result is true negative) was high but the sensitivity of self-testing (the chance of an HIV-positive person receiving a positive test result is indeed a true positive) was higher for supervised than for unsupervised testing. The researchers also found evidence that people preferred self-testing to facility-based testing and oral self-testing to blood-based self testing and, in one study, 96% of participants who self-tested positive sought post-testing counseling.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide new but limited information about the feasibility, acceptability, and accuracy of HIV self-testing. They suggest that it is feasible to implement both supervised and unsupervised self-testing, that both strategies are preferred to facility-based testing, but that the accuracy of self-testing is variable. However, most of the evidence considered by the researchers came from high-income countries and from observational studies of varying quality, and data on whether people self-testing positive sought post-testing counseling (linkage to care) were only available from one evaluation of unsupervised self-testing in the US. Consequently, although these findings suggest that self-testing could engage individuals in finding our their HIV status and thereby help modify behavior thus, reduce HIV transmission in the community, by increasing the proportion of people living with HIV who know their HIV status. The researchers suggested that more data from diverse settings and preferably from controlled randomized trials must be collected before any initiatives for global scale-up of self-testing for HIV infection are implemented.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001414.
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
NAM/aidsmap provides basic information about HIV/AIDS and summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on HIV testing, and on HIV transmission and testing (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information about all aspects of HIV and AIDS; a “behind the headlines” article provides details about the 2012 US approval for an over-the-counter HIV home-use test
The 2012 World AIDS Day Report provides information about the percentage of people living with HIV who are aware of their HIV status in various African countries, as well as up-to-date information about the AIDS epidemic
Patient stories about living with HIV/AIDS are available through Avert; the nonprofit website Healthtalkonline also provides personal stories about living with HIV, including stories about getting a diagnosis
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001414
PMCID: PMC3614510  PMID: 23565066
25.  Nurse awareness of clinical research: a survey in a Japanese University Hospital 
Background
Clinical research plays an important role in establishing new treatments and improving the quality of medical practice. Since the introduction of the concept of clinical research coordinators (CRC) in Japan, investigators and CRC work as a clinical research team that coordinates with other professionals in clinical trials leading to drug approval (registration trials). Although clinical nurses collaborate with clinical research teams, extended clinical research teams that include clinical nurses may contribute to the ethical and scientific pursuit of clinical research.
Methods
As knowledge of clinical research is essential for establishing an extended clinical research team, we used questionnaires to survey the knowledge of clinical nurses at Tokushima University Hospital. Five-point and two-point scales were used. Questions as for various experiences were also included and the relationship between awareness and experiences were analyzed.
Results
Among the 597 nurses at Tokushima University Hospital, 453 (75.9%) responded to the questionnaires. In Japan, registration trials are regulated by pharmaceutical affairs laws, whereas other types of investigator-initiated research (clinical research) are conducted based on ethical guidelines outlined by the ministries of Japan. Approximately 90% of respondents were aware of registration trials and clinical research, but less than 40% of the nurses were aware of their difference. In clinical research terminology, most respondents were aware of informed consent and related issues, but ≤50% were aware of other things, such as the Declaration of Helsinki, ethical guidelines, Good Clinical Practice, institutional review boards, and ethics committees. We found no specific tendency in the relationship between awareness and past experiences, such as nursing patients who were participating in registration trials and/or clinical research or taking a part in research involving patients as a nursing student or a nurse.
Conclusions
These findings suggest that clinical nurses have only limited knowledge on clinical research and the importance to have chances to make nurses aware of clinical research-related issues is suggested to establish an extended research team. Because of the study limitations, further study is warranted to determine the role of clinical nurses in establishing a suitable infrastructure for ethical pursuit of clinical research.
doi:10.1186/1471-2288-14-85
PMCID: PMC4091657  PMID: 24989623
Nurses; Research ethics; Clinical research; Awareness; Contribution

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