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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Introduction to Monitoring

I've been out on the road for the past few weeks assisting some other monitors to review patient's medical records and the data that has been collected for the clinical trial. It occurs to me, that it would be beneficial at this point to further describe to you the roles and expectations of a Clinical Research Associate (CRA).

In a pharmaceutical/biotech company, teams of scientists are working to discover new molecules, compounds, and foundations for new drugs. In addition, these same scientists sometimes work to re-formulate current drugs or apply them for new diseases and indications (all of this work is done in animal models before the human clinical trials can begin). It is at this point that monitors such as myself come into play. Once an experiment that involves humans is designed, monitors help the company choose qualified and interested physicians to carry out the study. These 'investigators' are reimbursed for their efforts to conduct the trial and a CRA may also help negotiate the budget and/or contract between the parties involved.

A CRA job is a traveling job. Sometimes we go to glamorous places but more often than not we are monitoring in hard to reach or otherwise obscure locations. 
Objectives when we visit the investigative site (Doctor office, hospital, research center, etc.) include: 1) perform pre-study tasks during a Pre-Study Visit (PSV), 2) kick-off the study with a Site Initiation Visit (SIV), 3) routinely check back with the site regarding subject enrollment, trial conduct, and data collection during one (or typically many!) Interim Site Monitoring Visits (MV), and finally 4) shut down the site after their participation has ended during a Close Out Visit (COV). Before and after each visit, there are a variety of tasks and communications that need to occur in regards to preparing for, scheduling, confirming, and then following up on items from previous visits. Read some of my other blog posts to learn more about Site Initiation Visits, Routine Monitoring Visits, and Close-Out Visits.

Also, between visits, a CRA needs to regularly contact the sites and perform site management activities such as answering questions regarding the study design, encouraging enrollment, sharing tips from other sites, and distributing study drug (Investigational Product, IP), and managing site supplies inventory levels (often you are assigned up to 10 different sites to manage but this really can vary depending on geography, how many patients/doctor sites are participating, how many monitors are on the study, how complex the trial is, and a variety of other factors).

I'll explain more regarding the key tasks at each visit in later articles. There are many Federal and International regulations that apply to human research to ensure that the studies are valid, reliable, and above all, that the rights of the participating subjects are protected and we'll also get into those soon.

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