Washington Update

Updated OLAW Guidance on Semiannual Reviews Includes FASEB Recommendations

By: Naomi Charalambakis
Wednesday, June 7, 2023
On June 2, National Institutes of Health Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) published updated guidance (NOT-OD-23-129) on conducting semiannual animal program reviews. The Health Research Extension Act and Public Health Service (PHS) Policy—the law and policy that authorizes OLAW to oversee animal research conducted at institutions—require Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUCs) to review the care and treatment of animals in their facilities at least semiannually to ensure policy compliance. The publication reflects OLAW’s ongoing efforts to identify and implement ways to reduce administrative burden in animal research.

OLAW’s latest guidelines list seven flexibilities that IACUCs may consider when performing semiannual program reviews. More important, the updated guidance includes FASEB’s recommendations submitted in response to the associated Request for Information. In its comments, FASEB expressed overall support for institutional flexibilities, emphasizing their critical role in enabling IACUCs to fulfill their obligations with the latitude necessary to adapt to their respective needs and circumstances. To further support this goal, FASEB recommended revising the final guidance to state that local IACUCs are responsible for deciding the best frequency and method of reviewing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). This is particularly important for large institutions whose SOP manuals are often thousands of pages long. Furthermore, FASEB encouraged OLAW to distinguish between SOPs requiring routine review and those that may follow a more flexible schedule, such as SOPs not directly relevant to animal welfare.

Both recommendations were integrated into the final guidance. OLAW emphasizes that IACUCs have the discretion to determine the frequency and method of reviewing SOPs that best fits their local needs. The final guidance also specifies that local IACUCs can discern how often to review SOPs unrelated to animal care and welfare, based on current applicability and institutional practices.

To keep up to date with OLAW’s ongoing efforts to reduce administrative burden in animal research, view their dedicated webpage