The National Institutes of Health (NIH) last week (January 5) finalized changes to financial conflict of interest regulations for outside experts participating in peer review of research grants and research and development contracts. The revisions raise the financial threshold for such conflicts from $5000 to $10,000 per year and attempt to clarify distinctions between “real” and “apparent” conflicts.

House and Senate subcommittees, meanwhile, are planning hearings to review allegations, first reported in the Los Angeles Times on December 7, 2003, that senior NIH officials secretly received millions of dollars in consulting contracts from pharmaceutical and biomedical companies that had dealings with the agency.

Zerhouni has been generally contrite in discussing allegations that a handful of senior NIH officials secretly pocketed lucrative consulting fees and stock options from drug manufacturers over the past decade. On December 10, Zerhouni announced the creation of a “blue ribbon panel” to review how NIH addresses...

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