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Paying Physicians To Recruit Patients Into Trials: The Ethical Concerns


A policy paper in PLoS Medicine shines a light on the legal and ethical issues surrounding so-called "finder's fees"--payments to health professionals for successfully recruiting patients into clinical trials.

Trudo Lemmens and Paul Miller, from the University of Toronto, say that the increasing prevalence of such recruitment incentives is directly related to growing competition between research sponsors. The fees offered to health professionals for successful recruitment can be substantial, they say--finder's fees ranging between $2,000 and $5,000 per patient are common.

Lemmens and Miller outline a number of concerns raised by finder's fees and other types of incentives. The prospect of these fees, they say, "may interfere with the judgment of physicians trusted by patients to act in their best interests." Other concerns include the risk of compromising patient safety and the erosion of public trust in clinical research.

"The problems raised by finder's fees cannot be resolved by focusing exclusively on sanctioning the individuals who may accept them," say Lemmens and Miller. Instead, they argue that the problems ought to be addressed "as part of a broader institutional and regulatory reform effort designed to address weaknesses in research governance."

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PLEASE MENTION THE OPEN-ACCESS JOURNAL PLoS MEDICINE (http://www.plosmedicine.org) AS THE SOURCE FOR THESE ARTICLES AND PROVIDE A LINK TO THE FREELY-AVAILABLE TEXT. THANK YOU.

All works published in PLoS Medicine are open access. Everything is immediately available without cost to anyone, anywhere--to read, download, redistribute, include in databases, and otherwise use--subject only to the condition that the original authorship is properly attributed. Copyright is retained by the authors. The Public Library of Science uses the Creative Commons Attribution License.

Citation: Lemmens T, Miller PB (2006) Regulating the market in human research participants. PLoS Med 3(8): e330.

PLEASE ADD THE LINK TO THE PUBLISHED ARTICLE IN ONLINE VERSIONS OF YOUR REPORT: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030330

CONTACT:
Trudo Lemmens
University of Toronto
Faculty of Law
78 Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M52C5 Cananda

About PLoS Medicine

PLoS Medicine is an open access, freely available international medical journal. It publishes original research that enhances our understanding of human health and disease, together with commentary and analysis of important global health issues. For more information, visit http://www.plosmedicine.org

About the Public Library of Science

The Public Library of Science (PLoS) is a non-profit organization of scientists and physicians committed to making the world's scientific and medical literature a freely available public resource. For more information, visit http://www.plos.org

Contact: Andrew Hyde
Public Library of Science