Background/aims: Serious adverse event reporting guidelines have largely been developed for pharmaceutical trials. There is evidence that serious adverse events, such as psychological distress, can also occur in non-pharmaceutical trials. Managing serious adverse event reporting and monitoring in palliative care non-pharmaceutical trials can be particularly challenging. This is because patients living with advanced malignant or non-malignant disease have a high risk of hospitalisation and/or death as a result of progression of their disease rather than due to the trial intervention or procedures. This paper presents a number of recommendations for managing serious adverse event reporting that are drawn from two palliative care non-pharmacological trials. Methods: The recommendations were iteratively developed across a number of exemplar trials. This included examining national and international safety reporting guidance, reviewing serious adverse event reporting procedures from other pharmacological and non-pharmacological trials, a review of the literature and collaboration between the ACTION study team and Data Safety Monitoring Committee. These two groups included expertise in oncology, palliative care, statistics and medical ethics and this collaboration led to the development of serious adverse event reporting procedures. Results: The recommendations included; allowing adequate time at the study planning stage to develop serious adverse event reporting procedures, especially in multi-national studies or research naïve settings; reviewing the level of trial oversight required; defining what a serious adverse event is in your trial based on your study population; development and implementation of standard operating procedures and training; refining the reporting procedures during the trial if necessary and publishing serious adverse events in findings papers. Conclusions: There is a need for researchers to share their experiences of managing this challenging aspect of trial conduct. This will ensure that the processes for managing serious adverse event reporting are continually refined and improved so optimising patient safety. Trial registration: ACTION trial registration number: ISRCTN63110516 (date of registration 03/10/2014). Namaste trial registration number: ISRCTN14948133 (date of registration 04/10/2017).

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BMC Palliative Care
Department of Public Health