Female Viagra: Discrimination or Medicalization or Something Else?

Earlier this year, the flibanserin pill, aka “female Viagra,” was introduced to the market, generating tons of headlines. After many years in which the plain old (male) Viagra was the sole sexual stimulator in the market, flibanserin was finally approved last August, following an 18-6 vote by the FDA advisory committee.

Before approval, flibanserin was rejected twice, and reports say that even members on the advisory board who voted in favor still had misgivings despite their final decision. Their concerns were driven by doubts regarding flibanserin’s effectiveness to treat low sexual drives. Trials showed that women who took the pill ‘earned’ only 0.7 “sexually satisfying events” in a month, whereas the drop-out rate due to negative side effects was relatively high – 14%. The side effects associated with flibanserin are low blood pressure, dizziness and such.

So what made this low cost-benefit ratio get the advisory committee’s approval the third time around? Some credit mass political campaigns promoted by women’s organizations claiming to advocate women’s interests. One position advocated by the organizations presented the pill as a treatment for a legit medical problem called HSDD (hypoactive sexual desire disorder), and it was said to be a step towards realization of women’s sexuality. The other side of the debate pushed back against what they perceive as medicalizing another realm of women’s sexuality and subjecting it (again) to the gaze of the male expert.

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The Common Rule NPRM: Single IRB Review

By: Academic and Clinical Research Group at Verrill Dana LLP

[Crossposted from the The Common Rule NPRM Blog Series on the Endpoints Blog]

To rely or not to rely? Under the recent Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) and fifteen other federal agencies outlining changes to their existing human subject protection regulations (the “Common Rule”), this would generally no longer be a question in the U.S. Part 2 of our Academic and Clinical Research Group (“ACRG”) blog series on the Common Rule NPRM addresses the NPRM’s proposal to require U.S. institutions engaged in domestic cooperative research to rely on a “single IRB” to provide review of the research on their behalf in most circumstances. This proposal remains a constant from the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“ANPRM”) that was published in 2011, despite comments from the regulated community suggesting that HHS take steps to encourage various types of IRB reliance arrangements but stop short of a mandate. We expect that many institutions may be planning to comment again on whether single IRB review should become a mandate and on the associated relative burdens and benefits of such review (whether it is mandatory or permissive). This blog post does not comment on logistical implementation issues or on the cost assumptions provided by HHS in support of the proposal. Rather, we outline below some additional questions and issues that organizations may wish to consider or address in submitting comments on the proposal.

Thanks to a just-granted 30-day extension of the public comment period for the NPRM, comments on the NPRM are now due to HHS by January 6, 2016. The ACRG has prepared an unofficial redline of the proposed changes against the existing regulations and a set of decision charts to assist with navigating the proposed changes.

ACRG Rapid Rundown: Six Things You Need to Know

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Vulnerability, Coercion, and Undue Influence: From the Mud into the Muck?

According to the NPRM, “the only vulnerability that needs to be considered is vulnerability to coercion or undue influence, and not other types of vulnerability.” It therefore replaces all standalone uses of “vulnerable” with “vulnerable to coercion or undue influence.” This change is justified on the basis that it will “provide greater consistency and clarity in IRB consideration of vulnerability of subject populations in research activities and appropriate protections,” where the vulnerable populations in question are “children, prisoners, pregnant women, physically or mentally disabled persons, or economically or educationally disadvantaged persons.”

Two provisions of the Common Rule (§107.a and §111.a.3) currently discuss vulnerability without further specification, whereas one (§111.b) discusses vulnerability to coercion and undue influence. Deleting §111.b’s reference to coercion and undue influence, however, would achieve consistency while making even fewer changes than the NPRM proposes. The proposed revisions, then, rest on improved clarity rather than improved consistency.

I doubt that narrowing vulnerability by adding the terms “coercion” and (in particular) “undue influence” adds much clarity. Rather, these changes may reduce protections against research flaws other than coercion and undue influence without offering counterbalancing advantages for the research enterprise. Continue reading

Introducing NPRM Symposium Blogger Govind Persad

GPersad 8-23-12Govind Persad will contribute to Bill of Health’s symposium on the 2015 notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on human subjects regulations.

Govind is a postdoctoral fellow at Georgetown University and will be an Assistant Professor (beginning 2016) in the Department of Health Policy and Management and Berman Center for Bioethics at Johns Hopkins University. His research is at the intersection of political philosophy, applied ethics, and health law.

Govind has been a visiting scholar at the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. He holds a JD/PhD from Stanford, where he was a student fellow at Stanford’s Center on Law and Biosciences; he was a pre-doctoral fellow at the Department of Bioethics, National Institutes of Health.

Representative publications:

How broad can consent be?

By Nanibaa’ A. Garrison, Ellen Wright Clayton and Ingrid A. Holm

Based on today’s publication of the paper A systematic literature review of individuals’ perspectives on broad consent and data sharing in the United States in Genetics in Medicine. 

The recent Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) issued by the Office of Human Research Protections proposes to require researchers to obtain informed consent from virtually every patient and research participant for use of biospecimens for research. The proposed regulations also permit obtaining broad consent for future uses, without any IRB oversight unless individual results are going to be returned so long as an elaborate consent form is signed. The NIH Genomic Data Sharing Policy, which went into effect earlier this year, requires almost all investigators who receive NIH funding to seek broad consent from participants to allow their data to be shared with other investigators. Thus, in a short period of time, two major policies promoted broad consent for biobank research, changes in the practice of recruiting participants for research that make us take notice. They also raise new questions, including: What do research participants think about having their biospecimens and data shared, and about giving broad consent to do so?

Who is comfortable with Broad Consent?
The Electronic Medical Records and Genomics (eMERGE) Network’s Consent, Education, Regulation, and Consultation (CERC) working group set out to find some answers. As a part of this effort, we conducted a systematic review, which revealed that males, whites, older individuals, and more affluent individuals are generally pretty comfortable with broad consent that can be found here. By contrast, Asian and African American individuals are less comfortable with broad consent. Will these different levels of concern create a divide between those who will and will not participate? The consequences of lack of participation are clear – we will know less about how genetic variation in groups that do not take part affects health and less about how to provide optimal care. Continue reading

The Common Rule NPRM: Biospecimens

By: Academic and Clinical Research Group at Verrill Dana LLP

[Crossposted from the The Common Rule NPRM Blog Series on the Endpoints Blog]

As we previously announced, sixteen federal agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”), recently published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) in the Federal Register outlining changes to the existing regulations protecting human subjects (the “Common Rule”).  The Common Rule NPRM is the latest development since the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“ANPRM”) was published on July 26, 2011.  The Academic and Clinical Research Group (“ACRG”) will be publishing a series of topic-specific blogs in the coming weeks to assist institutions in digesting various aspects of the proposed regulations, preparing to submit any comments by the December 7, 2015 deadline, and grappling with implementation changes once the final rule issues.  We have also prepared an unofficial redline of the proposed changes against the existing regulations and a set of decision charts to assist with navigating the proposed revisions.

In this installment, we discuss the NPRM’s proposed changes to biospecimens research.  The NPRM did not back down from one of the more controversial aspects of the ANPRM, proposing a fundamental shift in the applicability of the human subjects protection framework to non-identified biospecimens research.  However, once the shock of the new definition of “human subject” wears off, the reality is that most of the changes codify how the research community has tried to apply the existing Common Rule to the challenging arena of biobanking, secondary research, and genomic and other “omics” research.  That said, many of the carve-outs (i.e., exclusions and exemptions) intended to balance this shift are more restrictive than at first they seem.

ACRG Rapid Rundown:  Six Things You Need to Know Continue reading

Hormonal Treatment to Trans Children – But what if?

A few weeks ago I ran across this BuzzFeed post, telling the story of Corey Mason, a 14 year old male to female Trans teenager who was filmed getting her first pack of estrogen hormones. Her mom Erica, who uploaded the video to Facebook and YouTube, spurred a social-media discussion on the topic of hormonal treatment for Trans children and youth.

Erica said the vast majority of reactions were very supportive. On the other hand, different views and opinions were put on the table as well, even from people who ally completely with Trans identity politics.  One of them, a Trans woman, said she fears from rushing (perhaps gay) teenagers into irreversible treatments, as most Trans kids “GROW OUT OF IT”. Aoife commentThis position was also taken by Alice Dreger, a Bioethicist and a historian writing on Intersex issues, in describing the uneasy choice between the two models available at the moment: On the one hand you have the ‘therapeutic model’ offering mental health support to the Trans person and/or family, to help ease up the tensions caused by gender identity dysphoria (GID). This model aims to relax the dysphoria and so avoids any medical irreversible interventions. On the other hand, you have the ‘accommodation model’ asserting there’s nothing wrong with the trans person and/or his/her family, and so offers medical interventions to accommodate it.[1]

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Pre-Approval Access Symposium: Can Compassion, Business, and Medicine Coexist?

Dates: October 28 – 29, 2015
Location: The New York Academy of Sciences, 7 World Trade Center, NYC
Presented by: NYU School of Medicine and the New York Academy of Sciences
Event URL: www.nyas.org/CompassionateUse

Explore challenges surrounding pre-approval access to investigational medicines through a series of debates featuring prominent representatives of governments, pharmaceutical companies, patient groups, NGOs, and foundations in this two-day colloquium.

Agenda topics include:

  • Perspectives from Patient Advocates on Compassionate Use and Expanded Access
  • The Case of Josh Hardy and Social Media’s Impact
  • Lessons Learned from the Ebola Virus Epidemic on Compassionate Use during a Crisis
  • Key Issues from Stakeholders’ Perspectives When Considering a Compassionate Use Request
  • Legislative or Regulatory Changes on Compassionate Use and Expanded Access

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NPRM Symposium: More Resources, Now from OHRP

The Office for Human Research Protections (HHS) has released a series of 6 webinars to help the public better understand the goals and impact of the NPRM.  Happy viewing:

  1. Overview of the NPRM (approx. 34 mins.), Jerry Menikoff, Director, OHRP
  2. Exclusions and Exemptions (approx. 30 mins.), Jerry Menikoff, Director, OHRP
  3. Informed Consent (approx. 28 mins.), Jerry Menikoff, Director, OHRP
  4. IRB Review and Operations (approx. 18 mins.), Julia Gorey, Policy Analyst, Division of Policy and Assurances, OHRP
  5. Research with Biospecimens (approx. 22 mins.), Julie Kaneshiro, Deputy Director, OHRP
  6. Secondary Research Use of Data (approx. 21 mins.), Ivor Pritchard, Senior Advisor to the Director, OHRP

Research Ethics Extravaganza: New Draft CIOMS Guidelines

As if the proposed revisions to the Common Rule weren’t enough to process, the Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences (CIOMS) just released its proposed changes to the current CIOMS Ethical Guidelines for Biomedical Research (last revised in 2002).  CIOMS invites public comments until March 1, 2016, at which point the CIOMS Working Group will process and review them and submit the final document to the CIOMS Executive Committee for approval.

According to CIOMS, most guidelines have been substantially revised in this draft, several have been merged, and new guidelines have been added.  The proposal also merges the guidelines for biomedical research with those for epidemiological research, and the scope has been broadened from biomedical research to health-related research with humans.

A busy and exciting time in research ethics!

NPRM Symposium: Resources from PRIM&R

Our colleagues at PRIM&R (Public Responsibility in Medicine & Research) have compiled several resources to help those interested in the proposed changes to the Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects, or the Common Rule.  These include an NPRM Resources page, with a chart comparing the current Common Rule with the proposed changes by section, and other materials.  PRIM&R has also recently released a freely available (till December 11, when it becomes available only to members) annotated version of the current Common Rule, which provides the regulatory text, hyperlinked to further information in the form of guidance, frequently asked questions, and regulatory resources from the Office for Human Research Protections.

PRIM&R will be blogging about the NPRM in the coming weeks, and we will cross-post here.  Stay tuned.

NPRM Symposium: Helpful Resources to Understand What the NPRM Proposes to Change

For those trying to make sense of the NPRM, the Academic and Clinical Research Group at Verrill Dana has issued two very helpful resources: 

  1. A redline of HHS’s current Common Rule regulations at 45 C.F.R Part 46, Subpart A against the proposed regulations in the NPRM.
  2. Several decision charts walking through the following issues: 
  • the scope of covered human subject research and clinical trials,
  • the key definitions of “human subject” and “research,”
  • the exclusions (and conditions for exclusion) from the proposed regulations, and
  • the exemptions (and associated requirements) from the proposed regulations.

For those interested, the firm’s full client advisories on the NPRM are available here

[Posted with Verrill Dana’s permission]

NPRM Symposium: Escape for Many, Scant Relief for Those Left Behind

While the NPRM might do much to reduce the number of projects requiring IRB review, it would do little to improve the quality of review for those projects for which it is still required. This is a retreat from the more ambitious plans of the 2011 advance notice of proposed rulemaking.

[Cross-posted from Institutional Review Blog]

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Big Data, Genetics, and Re-Identification

by Zachary Shapiro

While all scientific research produces data, genomic analysis is somewhat unique in that it inherently produces vast quantities of data. Every human genome contains roughly 20,000-25,000 genes, so that even the most routine genomic sequencing or mapping will generate enormous amounts of data. Furthermore, next-generation sequencing techniques are being pioneered to allow researchers to quickly sequence genomes. These advances have resulted in both a dramatic reduction in the time needed to sequence a given genome, while also triggering a substantial reduction in cost. Along with novel methods of sequencing genomes, there have been improvements in storing and sharing genomic data, particularly using computer and internet based databases, giving rise to Big Data in the field of genetics.

While big data has proven useful for genomic research, there is a possibility that the aggregation of so much data could give rise to new ethical concerns. One concern is that promises of privacy made to individual participants might be undermined, if there exists a possibility of subject re-identification.

Re-identification of individual participants, from de-identified data contained in genetic databases, can occur when researchers apply unique algorithms that are able to cross-reference numerous data sets with the available genetic information. This can enable diligent researchers to re-identify specific individuals, even from data sets that are thought to be anonymized. Such re-identification represents a genuine threat to the privacy of the individual, as a researcher could learn about genetic risk factors for diseases, or other sensitive health and personal information, from combing through an individual’s genetic information.

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Monday, 9/21, HLS Health Law Workshop with Jessica Roberts

HLS Health Law Workshop: Jessica Roberts

September 21, 2015 5:00 PM
Hauser Hall, Room 102
Harvard Law School, 1575 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge MA

Download the paper: “Theories of Genetic Ownership”

Jessica L. Roberts is the Director of the Health Law and Policy Institute and an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Houston Law Center. She specializes in health law, disability law, and genetics and the law. Prior to UH, Professor Roberts was an Associate-in-Law at Columbia Law School and an Adjunct Professor of Disability Studies at the City University of New York. Immediately after law school, she clerked for the Honorable Dale Wainwright of the Texas Supreme Court and the Honorable Roger L. Gregory of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Professor Roberts’ research operates at the intersection of health law and antidiscrimination law. Her scholarship has appeared, or is forthcoming, in the Indiana Law Journal, the William and Mary Law Review, the Iowa Law Review, the Minnesota Law Review, the University of Illinois Law Review, the Notre Dame Law Review, the Vanderbilt Law Review, the University of Colorado Law Review, the American Journal of Law and Medicine and the Journal of Law and the Biosciences, among others. Professor Roberts teaches, or has taught, Contracts, Disabilities and the Law, Genetics and the Law, and Health Law Survey. In 2015, she received the university-wide Teaching Excellence Award and the Provost’s Certificate of Excellence. Professor Roberts was named a 2018 Greenwall Faculty Scholar in Bioethics.

NPRM Symposium: Freedom for Historians, If They Can Keep It

[Cross-posted from the Institutional Review Blog, as part of the Bill of Health’s symposium on the 2015 notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on human subjects regulations.]

By Zachary Schrag

The notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) promises long-sought relief for historians, journalists, and biographers. For these groups, the goal will be to ensure that the proposed rules are enacted as currently written.

Organizations representing anthropologists, sociologists, political scientists, and other social scientists have largely tried to make peace with IRB regulations, often counseling members to submit to IRB review and serve on IRBs. Historians, by contrast, have been almost uniform in our opposition to regulation, and since 2000, we have argued that our work should not be subject to rules written for “generalizable research.” In 2003, OHRP endorsed that position, but then distanced itself at the first challenge from IRB offices. Continue reading

Introducing NPRM Symposium Guest Blogger Zachary Schrag

Zachary Shrag 3Zachary M. Schrag, editor of the Institutional Review Blog, will contribute to Bill of Health’s symposium on the 2015 notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on human subjects regulations.

Zach is a professor of history at George Mason University. He has been involved with human subjects regulations’ impact on the humanities and social sciences since 2004, working as both an advocate and scholar.

Representative publications:

Mini-Symposium: The NPRM and the Future of Human Subjects Research Regulation

As discussed in other posts, HHS has issued a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) with significant changes to the U.S. regulation of human subjects research. Bill of Health will be hosting a mini-symposium on the topic getting some of the most important thinkers about human subjects research to weigh in on the NPRM and what it means for the field. Watch this space for more over the coming days and weeks.

NPRM Summary from HHS

As Michelle noted, the Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) on human subjects research is out after a long delay. For my (and many Bill of Health bloggers’) view about its predecessor ANPRM, you can check out our 2014 book, Human Subjects Research Regulation: Perspectives on the Future.

Here is HHS’s own summary of what has changed and what it thinks is most important:

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and fifteen other Federal Departments and Agencies have announced proposed revisions to modernize, strengthen, and make more effective the Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects that was promulgated as a Common Rule in 1991.  A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) was put on public display on September 2, 2015 by the Office of the Federal Register.  The NPRM seeks comment on proposals to better protect human subjects involved in research, while facilitating valuable research and reducing burden, delay, and ambiguity for investigators. It is expected that the NPRM will be published in the Federal Register on September 8, 2015.  There are plans to release several webinars that will explain the changes proposed in the NPRM, and a town hall meeting is planned to be held in Washington, D.C. in October. Continue reading

Long-Awaited Common Rule NPRM Released

It will be published in the Federal Register on September 8 (and comments will be due 90 days thereafter), but it is available now here. It is 519 pages long, though there is an executive summary and a list of the most important changes (which seem to roughly track the ANPRM) at pp. 21-26. Time to put on a pot of coffee, tea, or the caffeinated beverage of your choice.