[Homestead] It is a sad fact of life, corruption is endemic

Tvoivozhd tvoivozd at infionline.net
Fri Sep 24 13:27:17 EDT 2004


Unregulated capitalist predators incessantly and successfully corrupt 
their regulators---in this instance NIH, the National Institute of 
Health, which at long last is attempting to restore some credibility to 
its oversight of the wildly-crooked, secret collusion between supposedly 
neutral researchers and the pharmaceutical industry who bribe 
researchers up to a half a million dollars to provide the American 
public with false research data.


	
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*washingtonpost.com* <http://www.washingtonpost.com/>
*NIH Bans Collaboration With Outside Companies*
Policy Comes After Conflict-of-Interest Inquiry

By Rick Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 24, 2004; Page A23

All scientists at the National Institutes of Health will be banned from 
any new outside collaborations with pharmaceutical or biotechnology 
companies for at least one year -- and all existing collaborations will 
have to be discontinued -- under a surprise shift in policy released 
late yesterday by agency officials.

The blanket moratorium represents a much more radical policy change than 
NIH officials recently said they would invoke, and one that could shake 
already flagging morale at the beleaguered agency. But its need became 
apparent after the agency's own conflict-of-interest investigation 
turned up more problems than had been anticipated, said Raynard S. 
Kington, NIH's deputy director and ethics chief.

"We've learned there are vulnerabilities in our system of oversight," 
Kington said in an interview -- vulnerabilities, he said, "that give us 
pause."

NIH has been under investigation by the House oversight subcommittee 
since December, when the Los Angeles Times reported that some agency 
scientists were engaged in lucrative collaborations with drug and 
biotech companies that posed at least the appearance of conflicts of 
interest. Investigations have also been launched by federal ethics offices.

The controversy at first appeared limited to a few cases in which 
scientists had engaged in activities that were legal and approved by 
appropriate overseers but which suffered from an appearance of conflict 
of interest -- such as the case of an official who, with approval from 
the highest legal official in the Department of Health and Human 
Services, received a cash award from a university that gets grants from 
the NIH.

But over the months, the number and severity of apparent ethics 
violations have steadily escalated.

In one example, congressional investigators reported that a researcher 
at the National Institute of Mental Health had been paid $517,000 in 
fees, honorariums and expense reimbursements by drug giant Pfizer Inc. 
over a five-year period without reporting that income to NIH officials, 
as is required.

In another, an NIH doctor was allegedly retained as an expert witness in 
several private product-liability lawsuits at a rate of $600 per hour, 
congressional investigators said -- again without required agency 
permission.

NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni convened a blue-ribbon committee to look 
into the allegations early this year, and on the basis of that group's 
recommendations began to implement new tiers of ethics review for all 
scientists wishing to engage in outside consulting arrangements.

Zerhouni resisted calls by several members of Congress to ban those 
arrangements altogether, saying that to do so would make it too 
difficult to attract and retain high-quality researchers. But he banned 
all such collaborations by institute directors and others with control 
over grant decisions.

In June, as the clamor for change remained strong on Capitol Hill, 
Zerhouni proposed additional restrictions, including a ban on ownership 
of drug company or biotech stocks by some key employees; no membership 
on corporate boards; creation of a centralized registry of all outside 
arrangements; and prohibition of all paid consulting or speaking 
engagements at institutions that receive NIH funding.

"I have reached the conclusion that drastic changes are needed," he said 
at the time.

Yesterday's shift reflected in part ongoing disputes between the NIH and 
the Office of Government Ethics over how much the agency needs to do.

The new plan was submitted to OGE yesterday and is expected to go into 
effect as soon as that office approves the change, Kington said.

Kington would not reveal details about the number or depth of the ethics 
violations the agency's internal investigation has uncovered, saying the 
investigation is ongoing.

Perhaps 100 NIH scientists are involved in collaborations that will have 
to be discontinued, he said, noting that many scientists dropped their 
deals lately in light of all the attention. NIH legal staff has 
concluded that the agency has the authority to ban even those 
arrangements bound by contracts with companies, Kington said.

"We believe it's in the best interest of the agency," he said.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company





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