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Phase 1 clinical trials

Last updated on 11 Sep 2020

All investigational medicinal products (IMPs) go through a series of trials before they can be licensed for use. 

There are usually four phases of trials in humans (clinical trials). A Phase 1 trial is usually the first time that an IMP is tested in humans and so it will usually investigate the safe dose range and potential side effects, how it is metabolised and whether it might work in patients. 

Trial registration and publication of research summaries 

Registration of clinical trials in a publicly accessible database is a condition of the favourable opinion from a Research Ethics Committee. We also publish a summary of research reviewed by RECs in the UK. 

We recognise that commercial sensitivity may be a concern in some sectors, including in Phase 1 trials. It is possible to defer registration on a publicly accessible database and/or publication of the research summary. 

For further information on deferral of registration, please refer to the registration deferral policy and procedure. 

Phase 1 review timelines and seven-day submission 

We are working to ensure that the UK delivers timelines for giving the ethical opinions for Phase 1 trials that are short and predictable while maintaining robust ethical review. 

We aim to give final ethical opinion to be given within 40 calendar days (well within the statutory 60 days set out in legislation), allowing for the clock to stop once where a provisional opinion is given. 

We monitor adherence to our timelines (the statutory 60 days and our 40 day stretch targets), and identifying ways in which the review process can be made even more efficient. 

The latest Phase 1 management information data shows the timelines for the review of Phase 1 applications from 1 Jan 2017 to 31 December 2017. 

We have listened to feedback from stakeholders undertaking Phase 1 clinical trials that being able to book a Research Ethics Committee (REC) meeting slot in advance and submit an application closer to the REC meeting would be beneficial. 

The majority of RECs in the United Kingdom which are recognised to review Phase 1 clinical trials in healthy volunteers now accept Phase 1 applications being submitted up to seven calendar days prior to the meeting date. 

This policy was introduced in June 2013 and has allowed us to reduce the time between submitting the application and the application being ethically reviewed at a meeting than for other types of application. 

To request that an application is booked in for seven-day submission please contact your preferred REC which is flagged to review Phase 1 studies.

The Over-Volunteering Prevention System (TOPS) 

The Over-Volunteering Prevention System (TOPS) is a database that aims to prevent participants from taking part too frequently in trials of new medicines. 

The system is free for organisations undertaking Phase 1 trials to use. These organisations must (this is a condition of REC approval in the UK) register participants on TOPS before they are recruited into a clinical trial. 

Phase 1 Advisory Group 

The Phase 1 Advisory Group was established by the HRA as a forum to discuss issues relating to the ethical review of Phase 1 trials in the UK and meets twice a year. 

The membership of the advisory group comprises representatives of the following: 

The Phase 1 Advisory Group discusses topics including operational issues for the review of Phase 1 trials, training for REC members in ethical review of Phase 1 trials, and initiatives to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of ethical review. 

Next meeting date: TBC 

Minutes of previous meetings 

Generic Document Review Committee 

Clinical trials units often undertake general, non-trial specific advertising and screening procedures to recruit potential trial participants, prior to inviting them to participate in a specific trial. 

Such activities preparatory to research are not part of the conduct of a trial as defined in the Medicines for Human Use (Clinical Trials) Regulations 2004 and, therefore, it is not a legal requirement for such activities to be reviewed by a REC. 

However, it is our expectation that ethical advice regarding any proposed generic materials is sought from the HRA, prior to its being used, as a matter of best practice. 

To ensure consistency such generic materials are reviewed centrally by the Generic Document Review Committee. 

This committee is comprised of three experienced members of Research Ethics Committees (RECs) recognised to review Phase 1 studies. 

Examples of the types of generic materials which have been reviewed by this group include:

  • posters
  • website adverts
  • scripts for radio broadcasts and television adverts
  • website scripts/privacy policies
  • patient cards
  • participant brochures
  • Frequently Asked Questions leaflets
  • social media advertisements e.g. Facebook, twitter
  • screening information sheets and consent forms
  • the HRA template for generic screening information sheets
  • GP letters
  • Clinical Trial Unit internal participant guidance/rules documentation
  • posters and publicity campaigns

To obtain a review of your generic materials, send a copy of the materials to:

Materials submitted to the Generic Document Review Committee should not be related to a particular trial. If documents have been designed for use in a specific phase 1 clinical trial they must be submitted to the REC which is undertaking the ethical review as usual, in line with the Medicines for Human Use (Clinical Trials) Regulations 2004. 

Generic Screening Documentation 

We have developed a template information sheet and consent form for organisations undertaking non-trial specific screening procedures (“generic screening”) to recruit potential trial participants, prior to inviting them to take part in a specific clinical trial in the UK. 

The template has been developed in consultation with our Generic Document Review Committee and representatives from the Phase 1 Advisory Group. 

Our generic screening information sheet and consent form template is to be used for the generic screening of healthy volunteers only. It should not be used for enrolling potential participants into a particular trial. There is supporting guidance to provide information regarding how the generic templates can be used for Phase  1 research.

All trial specific documentation (including Participant Information Sheets and Consent Forms) must be submitted to the Research Ethics Committee and must be ethically approved.

Please refer to the guidance for using the HRA Generic Screening Information Sheet and Consent Form template for information regarding how to use the template Generic Screening Information Sheet and Consent Form. 

Additional Guidance 

Phase 1 Trials: applying for approvals. Further information regarding the MHRA accreditation scheme can be found on the MHRA website

The MHRA also publishes guidance for applying for a clinical trial authorisation.

Phase 1 trials in healthy volunteers – site-specific assessment.

Applying for approvals.

Phase 1 trials: guidelines

Phase 1 trials: ethical issues 

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