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Local research ethics committees

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: (Published 29 November 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:1464

Oxford committee was concerned that trial might be unethical

  1. D Talbot, Chairman, central Oxford research ethics committeea,
  2. D J M Reynolds, Consultant clinical pharmacologista
  1. a Oxford Radcliffe Hospital, Radcliffe Infirmary NHS Trust, Oxford OX2 6HE
  2. b Oxford Radcliffe Hospital, Nuffield Department of Anaesthetics, Radcliffe Infirmary NHS Trust, Oxford OX2 6HE
  3. c BMA, Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9JP
  4. d Research and Development Support Unit, Plymouth Postgraduate Medical School, Derriford Hospital, Plymouth PL6 8DH

    Editor—Stone and Blogg call for a national research ethics committee and cite in support of their argument their recent experience with an application concerning multicentre research, which was submitted to central Oxford research ethics committee.1 They are perhaps unaware of the imminent establishment of regional multicentre research ethics committees, which will reduce the bureaucracy entailed in submitting proposals for multicentre research and may well provide some uniformity in decision making. We were surprised that they singled out their application to the central Oxford research ethics committee as an example of a local committee making a poor decision.

    Stone and Blogg ask “what is peculiar about the Oxford local research ethics committee.” Local research ethics committees have been exhorted to require systematic reviews of existing research before approving new proposals.2 The central Oxford research ethics committee was perhaps “peculiar”because it (presumably unlike the other 120 committees) was aware of a particular unpublished systematic review. This review raised concerns that without a placebo group the proposed trial design might be unable to answer the scientific question and might therefore conceivably be unethical. Stone and Blogg were invited by letter to allay these concerns, but they failed to do so and the committee heard no more of their research proposal. The file on their application still remains open. It is therefore not …

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