NHLBI Adverse Event and Unanticipated Problem Reporting Policy

Last Updated: December 2014

1.0 Purpose

The purpose is to describe the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) extramural programs’ policy and procedures for adverse event (AE) and unanticipated problem (UP) reporting.

2.0 Scope

This policy applies to all human subjects research funded in whole or in part by NHLBI extramural programs.

3.0 Definitions

Sponsor: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations define the sponsor of a clinical trial (21 CFR 50.3) as the person or entity who initiated the trial. NIH guidance elaborates on the definition and provides examples.

Adverse event: any untoward medical occurrence associated with the use of a drug in humans, whether or not considered drug related.

Suspected adverse reaction: any adverse event for which there is a reasonable possibility that the drug caused the adverse event (21 CFR 312.32).

Refer to NHLBI Clinical Research Guide Glossary for additional terms not identified.

4.0 Policy and Procedures

4.1 Policy

All human subjects research supported by NHLBI must include procedures for identifying, monitoring, and reporting all AEs, including both serious (SAE) and non-serious events, and UPs. All NHLBI human subjects research will follow a uniform policy, which is based on the FDA/Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) regulations and guidance including definitions and timelines, as outlined in Sections 4.2 and 4.3.

4.2 Reporting Procedures and Requirements

Procedures for identifying, monitoring, and reporting AEs and UPs must be described in the study's Institutional Review Board (IRB)-approved data and safety monitoring (DSM) plan that is submitted to the NHLBI (see NHLBI Data and Safety Monitoring Policy). AE and UP reporting should include at a minimum:

  • Expedited reporting of serious and unexpected, suspected adverse reactions to the NHLBI based on the definitions and timelines in FDA regulations and/or OHRP guidance. For multi-center studies, this includes procedures for notifying all participating IRBs through the local investigator.
  • For all AEs and UPs, individual and summary reporting to local IRBs on a schedule consistent with IRB-written procedures and consistent with FDA/OHRP regulations and guidance.

A monitoring person or body, such as a Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB), may require additional expedited reporting. The program official will confirm with the principal investigator that any UP has been reported to the appropriate IRBs and that all corrective action/preventative action plans have been adequately implemented.

4.3 Reporting Timelines and Guidance

  • Refer to the table below for SAE and UP safety reporting requirements and timelines for clinical research funded in whole or in part by NHLBI extramural programs.
    • Note that in some cases, more than one set of regulations/guidance may apply to a specific event. For example, in a study with FDA-regulated products, an UP that is also an SAE would require compliance with both FDA regulations and OHRP guidance.
    • Reporting timelines for all non-serious AEs should follow the IRB-approved Data and Safety Monitoring Plan for the study.

SAE and UP Event Reporting Timelines

What Event is Reported

When is Event Reported

By Whom is Event Reported

To Whom is Event Reported

Fatal or life-threatening unexpected, suspected serious adverse reactions

Within 7 calendar days of initial receipt of information

Investigator

  • Local/internal IRBs
  • NHLBI and/or Data Coordinating Center (DCC)

Sponsor or designee1

  • FDA (if IND study)

Non-fatal, non-life-threatening unexpected, suspected serious adverse reactions

Within 15 calendar days of initial receipt of information

Investigator

  • Local/internal IRBs/Institutional Officials
  • NHLBI and/or DCC

Sponsor or designee

  • FDA (IND/Marketed Products)
  • All participating investigators

Unanticipated adverse device effects

Within 10 working days of investigator first learning of effect

Investigator

  • Local/internal IRBs
  • NHLBI and/or DCC

Sponsor or designee

  • FDA (if IDE study)

Unanticipated Problem that is not an SAE

Within 14 days of the investigator becoming aware of the problem

Investigator

  • Local/internal IRBs/Institutional Officials,
  • NHLBI and/or DCC

All Unanticipated Problems2

Within 30 days of the IRB’s receipt of the report of the UP from the investigator.

IRB

  • OHRP

Investigator3

  • External IRBs

1. Designee is appointed by the sponsor; for example, DCC, CRO.
2. Per OHRP guidance: only when a particular AE or series of AEs is determined to meet the criteria for an UP should a report of the AE(s) be submitted to the IRB at each institution under the HHS regulations at 45 CFR part 46. Typically, such reports to the IRBs are submitted by investigators.
3. Investigators should also take into account local IRB guidance if reporting timelines for UPs are shorter than OHRP guidance

5.0 References

Revision Record

 

Preceding Policies

Date Issue

Adverse Event Tracking in NHLBI-Supported Clinical Research Studies

April 2004

Policy for Reporting Clinical Study Serious Adverse Events

May 2002

Contacts

For additional information contact the NHLBI Program or Program Official associated with your study. Questions and comments regarding this policy may be directed to Office of Clinical Research, NHLBI.

FAQs

1. Q: Does this NHLBI policy only apply to clinical trials?
A: This policy applies to all human subjects research funded in whole or in part by NHLBI extramural programs.

2. Q: What is the difference between an adverse event and an unanticipated problem?
A:
The key question regarding a particular adverse event is whether it meets the three criteria described below and therefore represents an unanticipated problem.  To determine whether an adverse event is an unanticipated problem, the following questions should be asked:

  • Is the adverse event unexpected?
  • Is the adverse event related or possibly related to participation in the research?
  • Does the adverse event suggest that the research places subjects or others at a greater risk of harm than was previously known or recognized?
  • If the answer to all three questions is yes, then the adverse event is an unanticipated problem.

3. Q: What is the difference between an adverse event and a suspected adverse reaction?
A: Adverse event: any untoward medical occurrence associated with the use of a drug in humans, whether or not considered drug related. Suspected adverse reaction: any adverse event for which there is a reasonable possibility that the drug caused the adverse event. (21 CFR 312.32)

4. Q:  Is this policy for all trials or just FDA-regulated trials?
A: All NHLBI human subjects research will follow this uniform policy, which is based on the FDA/Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) regulations and guidance including definitions and timelines, as outlined in Sections 4.2 and 4.3 of the policy.

5. Q: How should non-serious adverse events be reported?
A: Reporting timelines for all non-serious AEs should follow the IRB-approved Data and Safety Monitoring Plan for the study.

6. Q: What regulations should be followed to report an SAE that is also a UP?
A: In some cases, more than one set of regulations/guidance may apply to a specific event. For example, in a study with FDA-regulated products, an unexpected problem that is also an SAE would require compliance with both FDA regulations (21 CFR 312.32) and OHRP guidance for a UP.

7. Q: Who makes the final determination of “relatedness?”
A: 
The sponsor makes the final determination of AE relatedness to a drug. Under the new regulation (21 CFR 312.32), PIs are now required to report all serious adverse events to the sponsor, whether or not they are considered drug-related.  But it’s difficult for an investigator to attribute a serious adverse event to a drug on the basis of an isolated incident, and individual investigators may not have timely access to the entire safety database. Therefore, causality of adverse events is best evaluated in the aggregate by the sponsor.