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Ethics & Human Research

Ethical Criteria for Improved Human Subject Protections in Phase I Healthy Volunteer Trials

ABSTRACT Phase I healthy volunteer trials test the safety and tolerability of investigational pharmaceuticals. In them, participants are exposed to study-drug risks without the possibility of direct medical benefit and typically must spend days or weeks in a residential research facility. Monetary payments are used to incentivize enrollment and compensate participants for their time. Together, these features of phase I healthy volunteer trials create a research context that differs markedly from most other clinical research, including by enrolling disproportionate numbers of economically disadvantaged people of color as participants. Due to these unique trial features and participation patterns, traditional biomedical research oversight offers inadequate ethical and policy guidance for phase I healthy volunteer research. This article details five ethical criteria crafted to be responsive to the particularities of this type of research: translational science value, fair opportunity and burden sharing, fair compensation for service, experiential welfare, and enhanced voice and recourse.

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