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Year : 2017  |  Volume : 8  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 22-30

Ethics Committees in India: Past, present and future

1 Department of Clinical Pharmacology, Seth GS Medical College and KEM Hospital, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
2 Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Seth GS Medical College and KEM Hospital, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Correspondence Address:
Urmila M Thatte
Department of Clinical Pharmacology, Seth GS Medical College and KEM Hospital, Mumbai - 400 012, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2229-3485.198549

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Following watershed amendments in Schedule Y India's star rose rather rapidly on the clinical research (especially clinical trials) horizon. Just as dramatic was the fall of this empire. At the centre of these events has been the participant and indirectly, the Ethics Committee (EC) that is established primarily to protect this individual. This paper traces the evolution of the concept of ECs in India, examines the current state of these committees in the country and suggests the way forward. The Past: The requirement for an EC to oversee clinical research was first made in the ICMR Policy Statement for Ethics published in 1980 and then again in the Schedule Y (1988). Later, both the Amended Schedule Y (2005) assigned regulatory responsibility on the EC and the ICMR Guidelines (2006) described the functioning of ECs. Several challenges including inadequate formal training, contribution from non-technical members, administrative support as well no SOPs and a heavy workload were identified. In the absence of regulatory oversight of ECs, the introduction of the Clinical Trial Registry - India (CTRI) and self-regulation through voluntary accreditation programs brought a measure of accountability and transparency. The Present: A slew of regulatory reforms led to more than 1000 ECs to be registered with CDSCO although the actual impact on participants' protection and safety of these new regulations still remains to be seen. Way Forward: A method to oversee all ECs, improved functioning of ECs including on site monitoring, central ECs for multicentric studies, the development of metrics to assess the ability of ECs to protect the participant are other ideas for the future. Conclusions: Although ECs in India have evolved from being mere rubber stamps for approval of protocols to efficiently functioning accredited ECs, yet there is much to be done for and by Ethics Committees.

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