WHEN publicly funded research results have immediate effect on patient care, should the funding agency announce the findings before they are published in a scientific journal? National Institutes of Health (NIH) officials in Bethesda, Md, are pondering this question and awaiting guidelines that might help with such early release "clinical alerts."
The NIH's National Cancer Institute was the first to grapple with the issue in May 1988, when it announced an adjuvant therapy for breast cancer. Then, in October 1989, that institute issued a "clinical update" on colon cancer management.
This sort of decision has put the NIH at the center of discussion of whether to make early release of the information or use the traditional but usually more time-consuming route of initial publication in the scientific literature. The advice from several speakers came at a meeting called by the NIH to discuss ways in which this policy can be