NIH defends consulting deals

At Senate hearing, top officials deny wrongdoing; Zerhouni appoints review panel cochairs

Ted Agres(tedagres@lycos.com)
Jan 22, 2004

WASHINGTON, DC—Senior officials at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) yesterday denied committing any improprieties when they accepted lucrative consulting contracts from pharmaceutical and biotech companies that had dealings with the agency. Testifying before a Senate subcommittee, one institute director called the allegations, reported by the Los Angeles Times, “misleading, grossly inaccurate, and filled with false innuendo.”

But NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni yesterday said that he had restructured the agency's system for implementing ethics regulations, suspended approval of all new consulting arrangements, and was reviewing all 365 currently active agreements. Zerhouni also announced the appointment of two cochairs to a “Blue Ribbon Task Force” charged with reviewing NIH ethics practices: Bruce Alberts, president of the National Academy of Sciences, and Norman R. Augustine, former chairman of the National Academy of Engineering and currently an executive with Lockheed Martin.

“I have reached the conclusion that NIH must make changes...

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