Variations in experience in obtaining local ethical approval for participation in a multi-centre study

QJM. 2003 Apr;96(4):305-7. doi: 10.1093/qjmed/hcg042.


Background: The Department of Health recently issued guidance on how Local Research Ethics Committees (LRECs) should handle an Multi-centre Research Ethics Committee (MREC)-approved application. This process is intended as a rapid standardized approval process, facilitating the execution of clinical trials.

Aim: To evaluate if this guidance had led to an efficient process for obtaining local ethical approval.

Methods: Questionnaires were sent by post to Local Investigators of the 56 centres who had obtained LREC approval for the Multi-centre Intrapleural Streptokinase Trial.

Results: Replies were received from 51 centres (91%). A total of 25 296 pieces of paper and 62 h of photocopying time were required to meet the 51 LRECs' requirements. LREC meetings ranged from weekly to bimonthly, with only 24 (47%) having a 'fast track' system in place. Applications took a median of 27 (1-90) days from submission to first being considered, with local investigators spending 3.27 (0.5-15) h on each submission. Nineteen (37%) of the local investigators felt the LREC/MREC interface did not work well and 17 (33%) were at least partly deterred from participating in future trials.

Discussion: The guidelines do not seem to have been implemented by all LREC committees, leading to wide variation in local experience.

MeSH terms

  • Ethical Review / standards*
  • Ethics Committees, Research
  • Ethics, Research*
  • Humans
  • Multicenter Studies as Topic / ethics*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • United Kingdom