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