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Risk-proportionate clinical trial monitoring: an example approach from a non-commercial trials unit

Catrin Tudur Smith1*, Paula Williamson1, Ashley Jones1, Alan Smyth2, Simon Langton Hewer3 and Carrol Gamble1

Author Affiliations

1 Clinical Trials Research Centre, Department of Biostatistics, and North West Hub for Trials Methodology Research, University of Liverpool, 1st floor Duncan Building, Daulby Street, Liverpool L69 3GA, UK

2 Division of Child Health, Obstetrics & Gynaecology, E Floor East Block, Queens Medical Centre, Derby Road, Nottingham NG7 2UH, UK

3 Department of Paediatric CF and Respiratory Medicine, Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, Upper Maudlin Street, Bristol BS2 8BJ, UK

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Trials 2014, 15:127  doi:10.1186/1745-6215-15-127

Published: 16 April 2014



Some level of monitoring is usually required during a clinical trial to protect the rights and safety of trial participants and to safeguard the quality and reliability of trial results. Although there is increasing support for the use of risk-proportionate approaches to achieve these aims, the variety of methods and lack of an empirical evidence base can present challenges for clinical trial practitioners.


This paper describes the monitoring methods and procedures that are utilised by a non-commercial clinical trials unit which coordinates a range of clinical trials across a variety of clinical areas with different associated risks.


Monitoring activities and approaches should be selected to be proportionate to the risks identified within a trial. A risk-proportionate approach to monitoring is described giving details of methods that may be considered by clinical trial practitioners during the development of a trial monitoring plan. An example risk assessment and corresponding monitoring plan for a low risk (type A in the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) classification system) pediatric trial is provided for illustration.


We present ideas for developing a monitoring plan for a clinical trial of an investigational medicinal product based on our experience. Alternative approaches may be relevant or preferable in other settings based on inherent risk.

Monitoring; Central monitoring; On-site monitoring; Risk proportionate; Quality assurance