Scientific and Regulatory Policy Committee Best Practices: Recommended ("Best") Practices for Informed (Non-blinded) Versus Masked (Blinded) Microscopic Evaluation in Animal Toxicity Studies.
This article describes the Society of Toxicologic Pathology's (STP) five recommended ("best") practices for appropriate use of informed (non-blinded) versus masked (blinded) microscopic evaluation in animal toxicity studies intended for regulatory review. (1) Informed microscopic evaluation is the default approach for animal toxicity studies. (2) Masked microscopic evaluation has merit for confirming preliminary diagnoses for target organs and/or defining thresholds ("no observed adverse effect level" and similar values) identified during an initial informed evaluation, addressing focused hypotheses, or satisfying guidance or requests from regulatory agencies. (3) If used as the approach for an animal toxicity study to investigate a specific research question, masking of the initial microscopic evaluation should be limited to withholding only information about the group (control or test article-treated) and dose equivalents. (4) The decision regarding whether or not to perform a masked microscopic evaluation is best made by a toxicologic pathologist with relevant experience. (5) Pathology peer review, performed to verify the microscopic diagnoses and interpretations by the study pathologist, should use an informed evaluation approach. The STP maintains that implementing these five best practices has and will continue to consistently deliver robust microscopic data with high sensitivity for animal toxicity studies intended for regulatory review. Consequently, when conducting animal toxicity studies, the advantages of informed microscopic evaluation for maximizing sensitivity outweigh the perceived advantages of minimizing bias through masked microscopic examination.
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