Good Clinical Practice – Are you R3 ready?

May 19, 2023 | Blog


Good Clinical Practice (GCP) guidelines play a vital role in ensuring the ethical conduct and quality of clinical trials. The original efficacy guidelines were published in 1997 and the R2 update occurred in 2016. Over time, as the landscape of clinical research has evolved, it has become necessary to update and refine these guidelines to address emerging challenges and incorporate new advancements. The upcoming release of the GCP R3 update marks an important milestone in the continuous improvement of clinical trial standards. In this article, we will explore why the recent R3 update is needed and delve into the key differences between R2 and R3 that you will see in the new update.

The Need for the R3 Update:

Evolving Regulatory Environment: The clinical research landscape has experienced significant regulatory changes since the release of the GCP R2 guidelines. New regulatory requirements, such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the International Council for Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Pharmaceuticals for Human Use (ICH) E6(R2) addendum, have necessitated updates to ensure alignment and consistency across various guidelines.
Advancements in Technology: Technological advancements, such as electronic data capture, remote monitoring, and digital health applications, have revolutionised clinical trial conduct. These innovations require the incorporation of updated guidance to address the unique challenges and opportunities they present. The R3 update aims to provide clarity on the use of technology and promote its efficient and secure implementation in clinical trials.

Key Differences between R2 and R3:

Risk-Based Quality Management:
One of the significant updates in the GCP R3 guidelines is the enhanced focus on risk-based quality management (RBQM). RBQM emphasises a proactive and systematic approach to identify, assess, control, and communicate risks throughout the trial lifecycle. R3 provides more comprehensive guidance on risk identification, evaluation, and mitigation strategies. It encourages sponsors and investigators to implement risk-based approaches tailored to the specific context of their trials.

Inclusion of Vulnerable Populations:
The R3 update emphasises the importance of including vulnerable populations in clinical research. It encourages the appropriate involvement of paediatric and geriatric populations, pregnant women, and individuals with disabilities. The guidelines stress the need for safeguards and specific considerations when conducting trials involving these vulnerable groups, ensuring their rights, safety, and well-being are protected.

Expanded Informed Consent:
Informed consent is a cornerstone of ethical clinical research. R3 provides additional guidance on informed consent processes to ensure participants have a comprehensive understanding of the trial’s purpose, procedures, risks, and benefits. It highlights the importance of clear and concise participant information, use of appropriate language, and addressing any potential barriers to comprehension. The update also encourages ongoing participant engagement and the provision of trial results to promote greater transparency from the Sponsors undertaking the research.

Data Integrity and Source Data Verification:
Data integrity and the reliability of trial results are of paramount importance. R3 includes more detailed guidance on data integrity practices, emphasising the use of appropriate data handling procedures, data protection, and source data verification. The update acknowledges the potential benefits of new technology available today in data collection and management while emphasising the need for robust quality control measures.

Risk Communication and Management:
Effective communication and management of risks are critical throughout the trial process. R3 encourages sponsors, investigators, and ethics committees to establish clear lines of communication, allowing timely and effective risk identification, assessment, and management. The guidelines provide recommendations on risk communication strategies, fostering collaboration and transparency among trial stakeholders.


The upcoming release of the ICH GCP R3 signifies the commitment to continuous improvement and adaptation in the field of clinical research the guidelines now contain 12 principles instead of 13. The principles have been reorganised, rewritten, and developed more thoroughly than in previous iterations. Technological advancements, and the way in which we conduct research has changed greatly over the years and this required the guidance we follow to be brought up to date. Training on these guidelines is key to the success of their implementation as guidance alone will not promote good practice, it is the deeper understanding and following the guidance that ultimately protects subjects and ensures the accuracy of clinical trial data.

Training Online 4U has updated their GCP course with all the proposed GCP E6 R3 changes and will be releasing the newly updated course once the guidance in released and content confirmed. Check website and our social media for more details.

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