Exploration: The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic response on other health research

Themes | Subthemes | Tags: Research ethics | Public health emergencies | Covid-19
Duration: May – June 2020
Team:  Jerome Singh, Sunita V S Bandewar, Elizabeth Anne Bukusi
Funding support:  None
Product/s: A paper titled, ‘The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic response on other health research.’ published in the Bulletin of World Health Organization (July 2020).

Overview | Abstract: While governments have been focusing on the unprecedented disruption to the global economy caused by coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and the urgent need for COVID-19 research, other health research has become a casualty of the pandemic. Major research operations that are unrelated to COVID-19 have been significantly diminished or suspended entirely because of either COVID-19-related legal restrictions or logistical, staffing or operational concerns. Billions of people globally are currently affected by lockdowns or curfews. Because the timescale of such restrictive measures is unknown and subject to change, many studies are now in limbo and the welfare of tens of thousands of study participants is at risk. These circumstances have introduced complex ethical challenges that merit urgent attention from international sponsors, researchers and regulators. Certain sponsors and regulators have published guidelines on how the COVID-19-related disruptions to clinical research should be managed. Although these guidelines provide a good starting point in navigating the challenges of the evolving pandemic, they only apply to those researchers funded or governed by these bodies. Here, we provide guidelines on managing such disruptions that apply beyond these specific settings. We highlight some of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on other ongoing research projects that are unrelated to COVID-19 and provide practical guidance on how the welfare of affected study participants should be managed. We conclude that policy-makers, sponsors, researchers and regulators must adopt a more flexible approach to ensure participant safety, while maintaining data integrity and complying with good clinical practices. [from the published paper]