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The federal government needs to boost its oversight of the institutional review boards that approve scientific studies and protect clinical trial participants, especially since more for-profit companies are taking running these reviews, a report from a government watchdog warns.

Also known as ethics committees, institutional review boards occupy a crucial, but behind- the-scenes role in ensuring clinical studies are conducted properly. Federal regulations require certain research conducted on humans to first win approval from such a board. The committees therefore have the authority to approve a study, require modifications, or reject proposed research if the risk to participants is too great.

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