Realizing benefit sharing - the case of post-study obligations

Schroeder, Doris orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-3633-2758 and Gefenas, Eugenijus (2012) Realizing benefit sharing - the case of post-study obligations. Bioethics, 26 (6). pp. 305-314. ISSN 02699702

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In 2006, the Indonesian government decided to withhold avian flu samples from the World Health Organization. They argued that even though Indonesian samples were crucial to the development of vaccines, the results of vaccine research would be unaffordable for its citizens. Commentaries on the case varied from alleging blackmail to welcoming this strong stance against alleged exploitation. What is clear is that the concern expressed is related to benefit sharing.

Benefit sharing requires resource users to return benefits to resource providers in order to achieve justice. One benefit sharing tool within health research is the duty to provide a health care intervention which has been proven to be beneficial (or alternative benefits) to research participants after a study has been concluded. This duty is generally known as a post-study obligation. It was enshrined in the Declaration of Helsinki in 2000 and re-emphasized in 2008. Yet, there are few, if any, examples of good practice.

In this article, we analyse the obstacles to giving more bite to benefit sharing provisions in health research through ethical review. We conclude that the provision of post-study access to healthcare interventions is not a promising mechanism when monitored through research ethics committees. Alternative benefit provision is preferable if one focuses on achieving compliance. However, even the latter faces challenges, which we address in specific recommendations.

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