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. 2013 Sep 16;12:325.
doi: 10.1186/1475-2875-12-325.

Evaluating Harm Associated With Anti-Malarial Drugs: A Survey of Methods Used by Clinical Researchers to Elicit, Assess and Record Participant-Reported Adverse Events and Related Data

Free PMC article

Evaluating Harm Associated With Anti-Malarial Drugs: A Survey of Methods Used by Clinical Researchers to Elicit, Assess and Record Participant-Reported Adverse Events and Related Data

Elizabeth N Allen et al. Malar J. .
Free PMC article


Background: Participant reports of medical histories, adverse events (AE) and non-study drugs are integral to evaluating harm in clinical research. However, interpreting or synthesizing results is complicated if studies use different methods for ascertaining and assessing these data. To explore how these data are obtained in malaria drug studies, a descriptive online survey of clinical researchers was conducted during 2012 and 2013.

Methods: The survey was advertised through e-mails, collaborators and at conferences. Questions aimed to capture the detail, rationale and application of methods used to obtain relevant data within various study designs and populations. Closed responses were analysed using proportions, open responses through identifying repeating ideas and underlying concepts.

Results: Of fifty-two respondents from 25 counties, 87% worked at an investigational site and 75% reported about an interventional study. Studies employed a range of methods to elicit, assess and record participant-reported AEs and related data. Questioning about AEs in 31% of interventional studies was a combination of general (open questions about health) and structured (reference to specific health-related items), 26% used structured only and 18% general only. No observational studies used general questioning alone. A minority incorporated pictorial tools. Rationales for the questioning approach included: standardization of assessment or data capture, specificity or comprehensiveness of data sought, avoidance of suggestion, feasibility, and understanding participants' perceptions. Most respondents considered the approach they reported was optimal, though several reconsidered this. Four AE grading, and three causality assessment approaches were reported. Combining general and structured questions about non-study drug use were considered useful for revealing and identifying specific medicines, while pictures could enhance reports, particularly in areas of low literacy.

Conclusions: It is critical to evaluate the safety of anti-malarial drugs being deployed in large, diverse populations. Many studies would be suitable for contributing to a larger body of evidence for answering questions on harm. However this survey showed that various methods are used to obtain relevant data, which could influence study results. As the best practices for obtaining such data are unclear, anti-malarial clinical researchers should work towards consensus about the selection and/or design of optimal methods.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Survey respondents by geographical region where respondent works most of the time (N = 52).
Figure 2
Figure 2
Proportion of studies by staff member(s) who question participants about health and drug use (N = 52). “Other” most frequently referred to community health workers, field workers and various trained members of the research team.
Figure 3
Figure 3
Questioning methods about health used to capture AE data in interventional studies (N = 39, 2 = not known).

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