Making Research Ethics Review Work In Zimbabwe —- The Case For Investment In Local Capacity
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Much has been written in recent years about the need to improve research ethics review in developing countries. Because of the involvement of researchers and sponsors from North America and Europe, including pharmaceutical companies, in clinical trials involving human subjects in developing countries, concerns about exploitation and ethical imperialism (imposing the standards of another country on research performed ) have been raised. International guidelines have been revised, and new ones developed, with greater emphasis on local expertise, relevance and policies. In some countries, significant levels of sophistication in terms of the protection of research participants are demonstrated, for example India has published “Ethical guidelines for biomedical research on human subjects”. However, the operational groups (institutional research ethics committees [IRECs], also called research ethics boards and institutional review boards) which are relied upon so heavily everywhere to implement guidelines, policies and rules, are critically under-equipped for this task in many developing countries, virtually guaranteeing failure of human subject protection. This paper describes and analyses the situation in Zimbabwe, a typical sub-Saharan country, in an effort to plan effective improvements in research ethics review in a developing country.