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NIH needs 'drastic changes'

Zerhouni outlines 'major reform' to curtail conflicts of interest following months of scrutiny

Ted Agres(tedagres@lycos.com)

WASHINGTON, DC—National Institutes of Health (NIH) director Elias A. Zerhouni yesterday (June 22) told Congress that "drastic changes" are needed to effect a "major reform" of the NIH's ethics rules, practices, and procedures.

"I believe we have been lax," Zerhouni told members of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. "I regret that the reputation of NIH has been challenged over ethics concerns and that the conduct of individual scientists who have devoted their lives to battling disease and easing the suffering of millions of patients has been questioned."

While stopping short of admitting wrongdoing on the part of NIH and its employees, Zerhouni said, "In retrospect, there was not a sufficient safeguard against the perception of conflict of interest."

Yesterday's hearing was the third in a series triggered by reports that several high-level NIH scientists and officials had received more than $2.5 million in consulting fees...

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