August 29, 2001
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External Review Committee Submits Report, Addendum to Hopkins

Hopkins releases documents to public and OHRP

The external review committee appointed by Johns Hopkins University President William R. Brody to help evaluate Hopkins’ research policies and procedures has submitted a report with some substantial criticisms of research oversight at the institution, along with an addendum that affirms the corrective action plan advanced by Hopkins following the tragic death of a research volunteer.

"Oversight of clinical research at Johns Hopkins must be significantly strengthened," the report said, while also endorsing in its addendum actions Hopkins already has taken or planned. In addition, the document encouraged further "collaborative behavior" between research institutions and the federal agencies involved in funding and oversight.

"We are pleased with the corrective action plan submitted to the OHRP [Office for Human Research Protections] and their acceptance of it," the report addendum stated, adding that "the external review committee is confident that these actions will correct and improve clinical research at Johns Hopkins as well as provide a model for other academic medical centers." It further commended Hopkins for its rapid embrace of corrective actions, reflecting "commitment to the highest level of protection of human subjects of clinical research."

The main report, rigorous in its sometimes unsparing language, essentially echoed the criticisms already made in the Hopkins internal review committee report on July 16 ( )and in findings by the OHRP. That is, it focused on procedures and organization of Hopkins’ Institutional Review Boards, the content of consent forms, Food and Drug Administration requirements, the role of regulatory agencies in general and oversight policies needed especially to ensure the safety of volunteers in studies with no therapeutic potential.

Describing what it termed defects and inadequacies in the asthma study review process, literature search used to support the research, the consent form signed by volunteers, record keeping, and the preparation of the chemical used in the asthma research, the committee report called on Hopkins to both tighten research study oversight and lead efforts to "collegially develop appropriate standards" for the use of non-approved drugs in human studies.

The five-person committee, convened by Brody in July and chaired by Samuel Hellman, M.D., A.N. Pritzker Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago, was asked to both review the facts and circumstances surrounding the death of a healthy volunteer, Ellen Roche, after her participation in a Hopkins asthma research study; and to recommend any alterations to policies that would reduce the likelihood of such an event in the future.

While critical of some practices and policies at Hopkins, the report also noted that "some of the issues that we identified apply to all" academic medical centers.

"I am grateful to Dr. Hellman and the members of the external review committee, as well as to its predecessor, our internal review committee, for th extraordinary time and effort that have gone into these careful evaluations and recommendations," Brody said. "These reports, together with suggestions by OHRP and the FDA, offer valuable guides for improving our institutional processes."

"At Johns Hopkins," Brody added, "we have taken immense pride in our scientists and in their ability consistently to produce the highest level of peer-reviewed, government funded research. The results of their work have contributed to life-saving advances against disease and disability. Now there is a consensus that significant growth in the volume of research must be matched by growth in infrastructure allocated to oversight of such research. We are pledged to do that.

"Our first goal, always, " Brody added, "is to protect our patients and volunteers. Ellen Roche’s death was a tragedy, and we grieve for her family, but one way we can redeem the tragedy is to seize the opportunity to strengthen and improve our commitment to safety."

Attached are the Hellman committee report, and its addendum, already sent to OHRP, along with a list of the committee’s members, a summary of corrective actions taken or planned by Hopkins (referred to in detail in the committee documents) and some comments in response by Alkis Togias, M.D., the principal investigator in the asthma research study.

All documents can be found at







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