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Ethical and Legal Problems of Randomized Clinical Trials

Kyungsuk Choi ORD ID 1

1이화여자대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Human experimentation can be ethically justified when subjects participate on a voluntary basis. Informed consent is required for clinical trials, including randomized clinical trials. Nevertheless, ethical issues arise when subjects are randomly distributed to experimental and control groups in randomized clinical trials. I argue that equipoise as well as informed consent is a condition of randomized clinical trials. Benjamin Freedman distinguishes theoretical equipoise from clinical equipoise. I call the former the “individual physician equipoise” and the latter the “clinical community equipoise.” Under clinical community equipoise, randomized clinical trials are ethically justified because physicians may still provide the best treatment to their patients. The above ethical principle should be applied to placebo-controlled randomized clinical trials. When experimental drugs and placebos are in clinical community equipoise, a trial may be ethically justified. In addition, placebo-controlled randomized clinical trials should be designed with double-blinding. The reason for this requirement is that physicians would cheat their patients without double-blinding. Current FDA regulations in Korea and the US do not sufficiently reflect the above ethical points. Institutional review boards should review their protocols in light of these ethical points. In particular, IRB regulations should reflect the basic ideas of equipoise in randomized clinical trials and double-blinding in placebo-controlled randomized clinical trials.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.