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N Engl J Med. 2006 Nov 30;355(22):2321-9.

Financial relationships between institutional review board members and industry.

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  • 1Institute for Health Policy, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, USA.



Little is known about the nature, extent, and consequences of financial relationships between industry and institutional review board (IRB) members in academic institutions. We surveyed IRB members about such relationships.


We surveyed a random sample of 893 IRB members at 100 academic institutions (response rate, 67.2%). The questionnaire focused on the financial relationships that the members had with industry (e.g., employment, membership on boards, consulting, receipt of royalties, and paid speaking).


We found that 36% of IRB members had had at least one relationship with industry in the past year. Of the respondents, 85.5% said they never thought that the relationships that another IRB member had with industry affected his or her IRB-related decisions in an inappropriate way, 11.9% said they thought this occurred rarely, 2.4% thought it occurred sometimes, and 0.2% thought it occurred often. Seventy-eight respondents (15.1%) reported that at least one protocol came before their IRB during the previous year that was sponsored either by a company with which they had a relationship or by a competitor of that company, both of which could be considered conflicts of interest. Of these 78 members (62 voting members and 16 nonvoting members), 57.7% reported that they always disclosed the relationship to an IRB official, 7.7% said they sometimes did, 11.5% said they rarely did, and 23.1% said they never did. Of the 62 voting members who reported conflicts, 64.5% reported that they never voted on the protocol, 4.8% said they rarely did, 11.3% said they sometimes did, and 19.4% said they always did. Most respondents reported that the views of IRB members who had experience working with industry were beneficial in reviewing industry-sponsored protocols.


Relationships between IRB members and industry are common, and members sometimes participate in decisions about protocols sponsored by companies with which they have a financial relationship. Current regulations and policies should be examined to be sure that there is an appropriate way to handle conflicts of interest stemming from relationships with industry.

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