On September 23, 2022, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a draft guidance aimed to protect children who participate in clinical trials, titled Ethical Considerations for Clinical Investigations of Medical Products Involving Children. The draft guidance describes the FDA’s current position regarding ethical considerations for clinical investigations of drugs, biological products, and medical devices involving children. The guidance explains the fundamental concepts for the ethical framework that institutional review boards (IRBs), sponsors, and the industry should consider when reviewing or conducting clinical trials involving children.
Of note, the guidance outlines additional considerations and recommendations IRBs should assess when enrolling children in clinical investigations of medical products. The guidance explains that, in principal, the risk of the clinical investigations must be balanced by the prospect of direct and potential benefits and must at least be as favorable as any available accepted alternative treatment. Accordingly, the guidance suggests medical product developers need to use a dose or treatment level expected to be effective for the child which should also have a positive impact on the child’s life.
The FDA’s Office of Pediatric Therapeutics noted that “the best way to provide children with safe and effective treatment options is by including them in clinical research.” The Office of Pediatric Therapeutics further noted that children are afforded additional safeguards when participating in a clinical investigation since they are a vulnerable class who cannot provide informed consent for themselves. The FDA’s guideline comes at an important time. By way of example, although 48.2% to 72.6% of parents are willing to vaccinate their children against the COVID-19 virus, a lower rate of parents allow their children to participate in clinical trials.
The FDA’s draft guidance is available here, and is available for comments until December 27, 2022.