Question of the Week


Can our hospital’s Institutional Review Board (“IRB”) be structured like and function as a medical staff committee?


No.  The federal Food and Drug Administration regulations pertaining to IRBs, 21 C.F.R. §56.101 et seq., define an IRB as “any board, committee, or other group formally designated by an institution to review, to approve the initiation of and to conduct periodic review of biomedical research involving human subjects.”  The Department of Health and Human Services’ regulations echo the “institutional” aspect of the formal designation of IRBs (45 C.F.R. Part 46).  Federal regulations require the IRB to be a committee formally designated by a hospital’s Governing Board to review biomedical research involving human subjects at the hospital.

Therefore, we recommend that the IRB be created by a Board resolution and thereafter function as a committee of the hospital, rather than the medical staff, with its independent authority derived from the Board.  For this reason, a medical staff committee should not act as the IRB.  There may be substantial overlap of the IRB membership with those of a medical staff committee.  However, the IRB should be constituted as a separate committee of the Board in accordance with the membership requirements set forth in the federal regulations.