US lawmakers grill Zerhouni

Congressional panel critical of NIH's report on consulting and conflicts of interest

Ted Agres(tedagres@lycos.com)
May 12, 2004

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Elias A. Zerhouni brought his agency's “blue ribbon” panel report on conflict-of-interest policies to Congress yesterday (May 12), only to face critical questions from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers angry that officials had not been more forthcoming about disclosing financial ties between government scientists and industry.

“Some NIH scientists are either very close to the line or have crossed the line” of ethics violations, charged Rep. James C. Greenwood (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. “If we are serious about upholding the highest ethical standards at the NIH, then NIH scientists should not even be close to the line.”

Acknowledging that scientists must maintain “unimpeachable integrity,” Zerhouni repeatedly promised to work closely with Congress to revamp NIH conflict-of-interest procedures. While he said that he “would sleep so much better” if all outside consulting activities were prohibited, Zerhouni...

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