NIH Finalizes Conflict Rules

America's key federal biomedical research agency officially releases its new policy on conflicts of interest.

By | August 25, 2011

After a couple years of fine tuning, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has finally released a set of rules governing how institutions and scientists funded by the agency report financial relationships that could influence their research. The rules update regulations in place since 1995, and among other changes made to increase public trust in federally funded research they: lower the income threshold that triggers the reporting of a conflict from $10,000 to $5,000, require the reporting of any equity (not just direct income) held in a company that's not publicly traded, and establish an institutional middle man who will be responsible for reporting pertinent conflicts to the NIH instead of leaving it up to grantees to report conflicts themselves.

"We're confident that the results will further add to the public sense of confidence in the scientific process and the results that come out of NIH-funded research," NIH director Francis Collins said during a conference call with reporters yesterday (August 24).

But some conflict watchers are disappointed that the final rules watered down a suggestion made regarding previous versions of the regulations that would have required academic institutions to establish web sites that posted conflicts held among their NIH-funded faculty members. Instead, the rules require that institutions make such information available in paper form within five business days of it being requested.

The NIH will enter the final rules into the Federal Register today, and institutions will have one year to fully comply.

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