BMC Medical Ethics
(Accessed 21 Nov 2020)
Ethics framework for treatment use of investigational drugs
Authors: Jan Borysowski and Andrzej Górski
Content type: Debate
18 November 2020
Expanded access is the use of investigational drugs (IDs) outside of clinical trials. Generally it is performed in patients with serious and life-threatening diseases who cannot be treated satisfactorily with authorized drugs. Legal regulations of expanded access to IDs have been introduced among others in the USA, the European Union (EU), Canada and Australia. In addition, in the USA an alternative to expanded access is treatment under the Right-to-Try law. However, the treatment use of IDs is inherently associated with a number of ethically relevant problems.
The objective of this article is to present a coherent framework made up of eight requirements which have to be met for any treatment use of an ID to be ethical. These include a justified need for the use of an ID, no threat to clinical development of the ID, adequate scientific evidence to support the treatment, patient’s benefit as the primary goal of the use of an ID, informed decision of a patient, fair access of patients to IDs, independent review, as well as the dissemination of treatment results.
While this framework is essentially consistent with the legal regulations of expanded access of the USA, the EU, Canada and Australia, it is substantially wider in scope because it addresses some important issues that are not covered by the regulations. Overall, the framework that we developed minimizes the risks and threats, and maximizes potential benefits to each of the four key stakeholders involved in the treatment use of IDs including patients, doctors, drug manufacturers, and society at large.