LONDON—The U.K. Medicines Commission is calling for a clampdown on independent contractors who hire healthy volunteers to test experimental drugs, but the code may never be enacted.

The drug regulation agency, headed by Rosalinde Hurley of London University, wants a register of contractors, limits on payments to experimental subjects, and guarantees that the volunteers will get full medical backup and nofault compensation if they suffer side effects. Its proposal is prompted by concern over the increasing numbers of independent contractors setting up shop to test experimental drugs for pharmaceutical companies.

Ministers asked the commission three years ago to produce safeguards following an outcry over the death of two student volunteers.

Hurley’s team produced its report one year ago. Ministers delayed publication until September, and no substantial government reply is expected until early next year.

More than 8,000 people volunteer for Phase 1 trials of potential new products every year in...

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