The National Institutes of Health (NIH) will ease previously issued ethics rules, the agency announced yesterday (August 25). The leader of a group of senior intramural NIH scientists that had criticized the rules expressed relief at the announcement.

The final regulations allow most NIH scientists and employees to own stock in biotech and drug companies, and to participate in activities with nonprofit professional and scientific organizations. But a total ban on outside consulting with pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device companies remains in place for all employees.

The final regulations soften a set of "sweeping" ethics reforms announced February 1 that had been severely criticized by scientists and others as being overly broad. Critics said they would have impaired NIH's ability to recruit and retain talented scientists.

"We are extremely satisfied with what we understand the regulations will be," said Ezekiel Emanuel, chief of clinical bioethics at NIH's Warren G. Magnuson...

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