Sunday, November 12, 2017

Love at First "Site": Early Signs of Strong PI Oversight

My Grandpa
When I was a teenager, my grandfather would invite my new boyfriends to run short, pointless errands with him, just so he could watch them drive. He said he could tell a lot about a boy’s character simply by observing his actions behind the wheel. Did he stay under the speed limit? Did he use his signal when he was switching lanes? Did he slow down when children were playing near the road? If so, it was a good sign that the boy was generally a careful and attentive fellow. If not, it was an early indication of reckless tendencies, and I would do well to be on my guard.

What does this have to do with PI oversight?

As Sponsors and CROs, you’re sometimes forced to make site selection decisions based on a limited set of criteria that you deem to be – hope to be – reflective of the site as a whole. In a short space of time, you need to assess a PI’s commitment to study oversight. On what should your pre-study “test drive” focus to help you gauge the level of care and attention a prospective PI will devote to your study?

We have some suggestions.

Assessing Attention to Detail
Any GCP-compliant site can produce a set of current CVs, job descriptions, and training records; they’re essential documents. But the most attentive sites are able to show you more than a collection of records during your pre-study visit with them. These sites keep a complete, organized set of uniform records and can describe their tight system for maintaining it. All documents for each staff member are found in dedicated tabs inside a records binder, or are equally well-organized in an electronic records system. All CVs are in a standard format so Sponsors can easily compare qualifications across individuals. Every document is current; CVs are up to date, and there’s a system in place to track which medical licenses are expiring when. Training records are comprehensive and include training on GCP regulations, site SOPs, and EMRs.

This is not sexy stuff. That’s why it’s a good indicator of PI oversight.  A site that is disciplined enough to keep such tight control over its personnel records is likely to carry that control into all aspects of trial execution.

Assessing Commitment to Protocol Compliance
During site initiation visits, Sponsor/CRO staff is on site to conduct protocol training; all study sites start off the same in this respect. But protocol amendments are inevitable, and sometimes – though nobody’s happy about it – frequent. You need assurances that a site’s response to each amendment will be swift, well-coordinated, and deliberate. Ask the prospective PI, “What procedures does your site follow for managing protocol amendments?”

The A answer:
“When a protocol amendment arrives, we convene a special team meeting to review the changes and discuss their effects. For example, if additional safety tests are required, the team discusses who shall be delegated to perform them? Do we have adequate time scheduled into the visit for any additional procedures the amendment requires? How will I be demonstrating oversight of any new test results? Once we’ve asked and answered these kinds of questions, we document attendance at the meeting, record assignments of delegated duties, and publish meeting minutes.”

The F answer:
“I email the amendment out to my team. I assume they’re all adults and know how to read.” (#TrueStory)

Just Ask
After reviewing essential documents and protocol amendment procedures, you should ask about other PI oversight mechanisms the site has in place. A good prospective site might tell you the PI holds biweekly meetings to review the items raised during monitoring visits. A PI may block out time at regular intervals to review adverse events and other study documents, and sign off on labs. A PI who values staff excellence may actively encourage and support Study Coordinator certification; some may even require it after an initial period of employment. In the past, we’ve worked with sites that have established internal Quality Control procedures, some maintain CAPA programs, and others conduct mock inspections.

There’s a wide variety of responses that can give you confidence a prospective PI is committed to running your study in a constant state of control. Whatever oversight measures are discussed, remember to ask how they will be documented, so during the study you’ll be able to verify that each activity is being consistently carried out.

After running an errand with a boy I met at college, my grandfather happily reported back to me, “He didn’t roll through a single stop sign coming down Green Hill Road. He’s all right, that one.”

My grandfather, a retired police detective for the city of Pittsburgh, knew how to read a person. That boy and I celebrated our 30th anniversary last month.

I was a child bride.

If you found this article helpful, you might also like:
Anticipating Tensions Between Clinical Care and Study Protocol
Avoiding Protocol Deviations

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Anticipating Tensions Between Clinical Care and Study Protocol

Protocol Deviations
Protocol trumps practice. This principle seems clear enough, but complying with it is not always as straight-forward as it sounds. Years of practicing medicine has reinforced the way a physician responds to medical situations. But do these responses run counter to the investigational plan? Can a site’s commitment to standard of care affect its ability to meet enrollment targets?

There’s a lot to consider.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Coping with Scoping Your CSV/Part 11 Audit

You know you need a computer systems audit, but that’s literally the extent of what you know.
Has this ever been you?

Yes, you use computers on a daily basis, and you may even use the system that needs to be audited. But you don’t spend your day thinking about where all the system components are located, how services and software are combined, and what Part 11 requirements apply. Terms like “cloud computing” make you feel slightly queasy. You’d rather get a root canal than discuss “distributed processing.” Your expertise is in manufacturing. Or clinical research. Or non-clinical lab operations. And somehow it’s your job to make sure an effective and properly-sized system audit is conducted. Great.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Notes 2 Fix Your Notes 2 File

Q: If Notes to File can be regulatory red flags, should we quit using them?
A: No, and here's why...

Regulatory inspections are often conducted long after the conclusion of the study. When an FDA investigator asks you a question about an anomaly five years after it’s happened, will anyone recall the circumstances well enough to satisfy the regulator’s concerns? You’ll be doing yourself a huge favor if you write NTFs that answer the questions regulators might one day be asking you.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

When GCP & GMP Meet

Developing safe and effective drugs requires a coordinated effort across a diverse set of disciplines. This is easier to observe at some points in the process than at others. Once a product is well into human trials, it can be easy to forget that developments on the manufacturing side of the house can affect the clinicians who are conducting the studies.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Site Selection: Don't Forget About the Study Drug

Study Drug IV
As a sponsor or CRO, you understand the importance of a thorough site selection process. A site needs to be able to meet enrollment targets and time frames, protect the rights and safety of study participants, execute the protocol, deliver quality data, and maintain GCP compliance. That’s what your site feasibility surveys and pre-study visits are designed to evaluate. And as you’re assessing a site’s abilities, the site is conducting its own feasibility process. They’re mining their patient database and assessing inclusion/exclusion criteria. They’re reviewing staff credentials and ensuring they have adequate resources to manage the number of subject visits and collect the data the protocol requires.

But when we conduct GCP audits, we find there’s one perspective that is sometimes overlooked by both sides: the needs of the study drug itself.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

When is a Customer NOT a Customer?

While patients are consumers of healthcare services, they can’t be considered customers in the traditional sense. The same is true of students. Over many years of teaching, I’ve noticed this parallel between the healthcare and education professions; both require significantly more “customer participation” to achieve desired outcomes than other industries do. That’s one reason it’s difficult to measure the quality of these institutions and the skills of their practitioners. That’s also why both industries focus so intently on engaging our communities; we simply can’t be successful unless we do.

Math Confusion
“Can You Hear Me Now?”
As the old joke goes, there are 3 types of people in this world: those who are good at math and those who aren’t. Many students believe themselves to be permanent denizens of the 2nd camp. They find mathematical concepts confusing and the terminology inscrutable, so they tend not to ask questions. They’re afraid they’re being judged, so they’re not always truthful. Tests and exams fill them with anxiety, and sometimes even panic (no doubt waking to nightmares of trains leaving stations at varying rates of speed). These are the students who need my help the most. Our success in overcoming these challenges together will depend heavily on the student/teacher connection we can establish, yet few students are actually able to choose the teacher with whom they are asked to connect. Sound like healthcare yet?