Common Rule Revisions Delayed 6 Months

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This week, the federal agencies regulated under the Common Rule, the set of regulations governing human subjects research, released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would delay implementation of revisions to the Common Rule by an additional six months, setting a new compliance date of January 21, 2019. The stated rationale for the delay is to “provide additional time to regulated entities for the preparations necessary to implement the 2018 Requirements.” The Obama-era changes had been originally scheduled to go into effect on January 19, 2018 but were delayed by an Interim Final Rule announced in January 2018 that pushed the compliance date by six months, to July 19, 2018, and indicated that further delays might be proposed. The rulemaking process to update the Common Rule has been in progress since 2011 (read COSSA’s summary of the changes). The regulations themselves have not been updated since 1991.
During the six months between the current implementation date of July 19, 2018 and the new proposed date of January 21, 2019, institutions would have the option to allow studies to take advantage of three “burden-reducing” provisions within the revised Common Rule (comparisons between the current and revised regulatory text are below). The three provisions are:
(1)   The definition of “research,” which excludes four categories of activities from being considered “research”: scholarly and journalistic activities; public health surveillance activities; collection and analysis of information, biospecimens, or records for criminal justice or criminal investigation purposes; operational activities in support of intelligence, homeland security, defense, or national security missions.
(2)   The elimination of the requirement that institutional review boards (IRB) review grant applications for covered studies.
(3)   The elimination of annual review for research eligible for expedited review and for research that progressed to the point that only involves data analysis or accessing follow-up clinical data.
The revisions to the Common Rule do not require that research initiated prior to its implementation date (January 21, 2019 under the newest NPRM) comply with the new rules. However, any studies that elect to take advantage of the three provisions above must comply fully with the new requirements once they come into effect in January 2019.
The NPRM requests feedback on the proposed implementation plan (a further six-month delay with the option to implement the three provisions), as well as the advisability of several alternative plans:
  • Delay the compliance date until January 2019 without allowing the implementation of the three provisions.
  • Delay the compliance date beyond January 2019.
  • Do not delay the compliance date and allow all the regulations to go fully into effect on July 19, 2018 as currently scheduled.
Comments are due within 30 days of the NPRM’s official publication of April 20.
You can keep up with COSSA's coverage of human subjects regulations here. Feel free to contact the COSSA team with any questions.