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Implementation of documented and written informed consent for clinical trials of communicable diseases: Lessons learned, barriers, solutions, future directions identified during the conduct of a COVID-19 clinical trial.

Woods P, Flynn M, Monach P, Visnaw K, Schiller S, Holmberg E, Leatherman S, Ferguson R, Branch-Elliman W. Implementation of documented and written informed consent for clinical trials of communicable diseases: Lessons learned, barriers, solutions, future directions identified during the conduct of a COVID-19 clinical trial. Contemporary clinical trials communications. 2021 Sep 1; 23:100804.

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Abstract:

Background and objective: The communicable nature of many infectious diseases, including SARS-CoV-2, creates challenges for implementing and obtaining regulatory-compliant written informed consent. The goal of this project was to identify and evaluate processes that address these barriers while maintaining clinical and research staff safety. Methods: We reviewed Federal Drug Administration (FDA), World Health Organization (WHO), and VA Office of Research and Development (ORD) guidance about informed consent during the COVID-19 pandemic, and identified and pilot-tested several mechanisms for obtaining regulatory-compliant consent during our COVID-19 therapeutics clinical trial. Results: Several processes were identified. These included a standard face-to-face consent with a plan for maintaining a paper copy of the signed consent form, a phone or video chat consent process that included taking a picture of the signed consent form or a screen shot of the signed document during a video chat, integration of the consent forms into software embedded within the electronic health record, and secure software programs with electronic signature. These processes are FDA-compliant but time-intensive, often requiring four or more hours of coordination between the clinical team, research staff, patients, and legally authorized representatives. Conclusions: Future studies could evaluate how to improve efficiency, and whether some elements of the consenting process, such as the requirement for documented written signed consent, rather than a witnessed oral consent, is an acceptable standard for research participants with communicable diseases.





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