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Public Affairs Update

  • Social issues are integral to balanced study of pharmacogenetics . . . Attention to ethical, economic, legal, and social issues should be an integral part of a balanced approach to pharmacogenetics and pharmacogenomics (P&P) research, Rochelle M. Long of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) advocated at a recent NIGMS advisory council meeting. Translating basic research results into clinical practice remains challenging because of factors related to reimbursements, education, and habits of practice in routine medical settings, as well as personal and professional decision making. Long reported that NIGMS seeks to stimulate research on specialized aspects of the ethical, economic, legal, and social issues related to P&P research. A research proposal solicitation has been designed to address implications of P&P research, specifically the hurdles of translating basic research results into clinical practice. Council approval Long’s request to solicit proposals to fund research in this area. She suggested that research applications address the fundamental questions underlying implementation of pharmacogenetics knowledge into medical practice. See www.nigms.nih.gov/pharmacogenetics.

  • Bargain shopping on the Internet is likely, but “IRB shopping” is unlikely . . . . According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the practice of “IRB shopping,” where sponsors of scientific trials specifically submit their proposed research to institutional review boards (IRBs) that they believe are more likely to give approval for the research, is doubtful. The FDA decided not to regulate this process because “IRB shopping” either does not occur or is not a significant problem. While critics of the process believe it allows ethically suspect studies to avoid oversight, large universities complained that new FDA rules do nothing more than bog IRBs down in paperwork. The FDA had considered the idea of requiring sponsors of studies regulated by the agency, and academic scientists who perform such studies, to inform IRBs about any prior decisions by other review panels. Among other tasks, IRBs are primarily responsible for protecting the safety and welfare of volunteers in biomedical and behavioral research.

  • Nicotine effects are different for black and white adolescents . . . . Research funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) suggests that some of the racial and ethnic differences underlying how adults’ bodies metabolize nicotine also are at work during adolescence. The research suggests that the findings might have implications for designing smoking cessation treatments for teens of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. The research looked at 61 white and 30 black adolescent smokers. The researchers measured the ratio of a nicotine breakdown product (cotinine) to the number of cigarettes smoked per day (CPD) and found the significantly higher cotinine-to-CPD ratio among black youth confirmed the slower metabolism among black teens. The study appears in the January 2006 Ethnicity and Disease.

  • New SAMHSA website offers news and resources on recovery . . . . The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced a new website for the advancement of prevention, treatment, and recovery from substance use and other mental health disorders. The new Partners for Recovery website www.pfr.samhsa.gov facilitates communication and resource sharing for organizations and groups that help individuals and families achieve and maintain recovery. The website features news and documents on recovery, collaboration, stigma reduction, workforce development and leadership development.

  • Bullying not a problem for mice when they lack the social memory molecule . . . . The social avoidance that normally develops when a mouse repeatedly experiences defeat by a dominant animal disappears when it lacks a gene for a memory molecule in a brain circuit for social learning, scientists funded by NIMH have discovered. Mice engineered to lack this memory molecule continued to welcome strangers in spite of repeated social defeat. Their unaltered peers subjected to the same hard knocks became confirmed loners—unless the researchers treated them with antidepressants. Now if they could only find the “bullying molecule” and knock that out . . . .

  • The American Institutes for Research and the Campbell Collaboration affiliate . . . . The international Campbell Collaboration (C2) and the American Institutes for Research (AIR), both nonprofit organizations, are joining forces in a relationship designed to expand the depth of reliable research knowledge available to experts and the public. AIR will provide support for the collaboration that will improve and expand its ability to make information available on a timely basis. Formally established in 2000, C2 is devoted to helping people make well-informed decisions about the effects of policies and program interventions in education, crime and justice, and social welfare arenas through a process of creating, disseminating, and maintaining systematic reviews of research evidence. AIR, founded in 1946, is a nationally recognized leader in the behavioral and social sciences and is one of the nation’s largest nonprofit research organizations. Additional information about AIR and C2 is available at www.air.org and www.campbellcollaboration.org.