Subjects' views of obligations to ensure post-trial access to drugs, care and information: qualitative results from the Experiences of Participants in Clinical Trials (EPIC) study

Journal of Medical Ethics 35 (3):183-188 (2009)
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Objectives: To report the attitudes and opinions of subjects in US clinical trials about whether or not, and why, they should receive post-trial access (PTA) to the trial drug, care and information. Design: Focus groups, short self-administered questionnaires. Setting: Boston, Dallas, Detroit, Oklahoma City. Participants: Current and recent subjects in clinical trials, primarily for chronic diseases. Results: 93 individuals participated in 10 focus groups. Many thought researchers, sponsors, health insurers and others share obligations to facilitate PTA to the trial drug, if it benefited the subject, or to a therapeutic equivalent. Some thought PTA obligations include providing transition care (referrals to non-trial physicians or other trials, limited follow-up, short-term drug supply) or care for long-term adverse events. Others held, in contrast, that there are no PTA obligations regarding drugs or care. However, there was agreement that former subjects should receive information (drug name, dosage received, market approval date, long-term adverse effects, trial results). Participants frequently appealed to health need, cost, relationships, reciprocity, free choice and sponsor self-interest to support their views. Many of their reasons overlapped with those commonly discussed by bioethicists. Conclusion: Many participants in US trials for chronic conditions thought there are obligations to facilitate PTA to the trial drug at a “fair” price; these views were less demanding than those of non-US subjects in other studies. However, our participants’ views about informational obligations were broader than those of other subjects and many bioethicists. Our results suggest that the PTA debate should expand beyond the trial drug and aggregate results



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Jeremy Weissman
Washington and Lee University