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In March 1996, the General Accounting Office (GAO) issued the report Scientific Research: Continued Vigilance Critical to Protecting Human Subjects. It stated that “an inherent conflict of interest exists when physician-researchers include their patients in research protocols. If the physicians do not clearly distinguish between research and treatment in their attempt to inform subjects, the possible benefits of a study can be overemphasized and the risks minimized.” The report also acknowledged that “the line between research and treatment is not always clear to clinicians. Controversy exists regarding whether certain medical procedures should be categorized as research.”
This problem currently plagues gene transfer research. A few months prior to the GAO report, an ad hoc committee appointed by National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Harold Varmus expressed similar concerns in its assessment of NIH investment in research on gene therapy.
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