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Comment: Peer Review of Validation Studies: An Assessment of the Role of the OECD by Reference to the Validation of the Uterotrophic Assay for Endocrine Disruptors


Robert D. Combes

The involvement of the OECD in managing the validation of the rat uterotrophic assay for endocrine disruptors, and in organising the peer review of the results of this study, has been assessed and compared with the many conclusions and recommendations in several published reports of international workshops on validation, and information in guidance documents, produced by the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM), the US Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM) and the OECD itself. It is concluded that the OECD has not followed the recommendations for full transparency and independence of the peer-review process. This is based on the fact that it has published a draft guidance document that differs from the report of a recent OECD workshop on validation, in such a way as to give the OECD the flexibility to fully control the peerreview process and, in so doing, to avoid full transparency. Comparison of the timing of the organisation of workshops by the OECD and the progression of the validation study, together with the fact that a draft test guideline for the assay was written before completion of the peer review, suggest that the OECD has given a higher priority to the expedition of the validation and regulatory acceptance of the uterotrophic assay than it has to good scientific and logistical practice. This severely undermines its credibility in the validation process, so, in order for the OECD to be rightly perceived as an honest broker, it is recommended that the OECD should play no role in the validation of new or revised tests, until after they have been successfully validated, peer reviewed, and endorsed by the appropriate authorities, and are ready for test guideline development. With regard to the on-going OECD validation studies of other in vivo assays for endocrine disruptors, the OECD should take immediate steps to ensure full independence and transparency of their peer review.