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ICMR releases guidelines on biomedical and health research involving children and adult participants


The guidelines are aimed to protect and safeguard the interests of individuals, communities and society as a whole

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) released two national guidelines, which would specifically help in understanding the complexities of ethical issues around research involving human participants (adults and children). These guidelines are aimed to protect and safeguard the interests of individuals, communities and society as a whole.

The ‘National Guidelines for Biomedical and Health Research Involving Human Participants – 2017’ was released by the Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare Jagat Prakash Nadda and the ‘National Ethical Guidelines for Biomedical Research Involving Children’ was launched by Anupriya Patel, the Minister of State for Health & Family Welfare.

These guidelines will help strengthen the protection of rights, well-being and safety of research participants involved in all types of biomedical and health research. The revised ethical guidelines have been expanded to address newer emerging ethical challenges being faced in the country and to improve public trust in research.

Nadda applauded the commendable efforts directed by ICMR to ensure that the biomedical and health research is carried out in an ethical manner to maintain and improve the public trust towards medical research. “I understand that the ICMR National Ethical Guidelines for Biomedical and Health Research Involving Human Participants – 2017 have been prepared considering the moral, ethical, social values and ethos of our diverse population,” he added.

Research ethics is a dynamic subject and over the last decade many new concerns and issues have evolved over the ethical dilemmas faced by the scientific and ethics committees in the conduct and review of biomedical research. ICMR undertook an extensive exercise by engaging with experts and diverse stakeholders such as patient groups, civil society, lawyers, clinicians, scientists, members of ethics committees and others through regional, national as well as public consultations in the process of preparing these guidelines.

Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Secretary-DHR and DG-ICMR said, “Medical research is the need of the hour and therefore it’s important to not only be responsive to emerging issues, but to also build greater trust towards research. It is thus important that every stakeholder, whether a researcher or a member of an ethics committee, or a sponsor, is aware of the provisions made in the revised ethical guidelines, which would help improve the conduct of biomedical research in India.”

The revised National Guidelines for Biomedical and Health Research Involving Human Participants, 2017 includes additions such as detailed guidance to help ethics committees in the process of review, guidance to researchers in conducting research, responsible conduct of research, obtaining informed consent, multicentre research, clinical trials of drugs and other interventions, public health research, socio behavioural research, genetics, bio-banking and datasets, research during humanitarian emergencies and disasters, etc. The document also highlights the needs for additional safeguards in the conduct and review of research carried out on vulnerable population including children, lower socioeconomic group, those with mental illness, or with rare disorders etc.

The National Ethical Guidelines for Biomedical Research Involving Children have been developed specifically to address ethical issues of conducting research in children. Benefit of research carried out in adult cannot be applied to children, as the doses and duration of therapy, pharmacodynamics, adverse effects of drugs in children vary from adults. Children are potentially vulnerable and carry a greater risk of harm during research. The guideline was prepared after extensive literature review and expert consensus, and also covers the ethical and legal dimensions. Other special scenarios like school based research, research using internet, research involving HIV positive children, children in emergency situations and research in neonates or adolescents are also covered.

These ICMR guidelines aim to improve the research quality as well as safeguard participants involved in research. Both the guidelines will also support regulatory agencies and all other stakeholders involved in research enterprise, in imparting better protection of our population.

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