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Biomed Analysis: A cautious welcome for online trials


20 June 2012

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Priya Shetty, journalist and specialist in health, climate change and human rights opines that online clinical trials hold promise for research, but scientists should think hard before using them in poorer countries.

Facebook may be the home of many an embarrassing photo, and Twitter host to continually scrolling tedium, but online social networks can be used for so much more.

Scientists have caught on to this and are now using social networks to make their clinical trials virtual — using them to find participants for trials, or inviting patients to monitor and report their own symptoms after taking experimental drugs.

These technologies hold enormous promise for developing countries where resources are scarce and it can be difficult to recruit participants. But there is reason to sound a strong note of caution: research ethics for even conventional trials are often far from robust in these countries.

What's more, the scientists using social networks and those reviewing the ethics of the trial may lack training in research ethics; have to shoulder the burden of ethics review with little institutional support; or struggle to adapt international guidelines to local conditions.

Researchers should by all means be innovative in their approach to testing new health interventions, but they must understand the implications of taking trials online, and ensure that their methods are sound.

To read more, click here

 
Source : SciDev

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