Under a proposal announced last week, all employees of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), including intramural scientists, would be barred from engaging in paid consulting activities with drug and biotech companies for at least 1 year while the agency reviews its procedures and develops more effective oversight systems.

The proposed ban, disclosed to employees in an E-mail message last Friday (September 24), will affect more than 5000 scientists, including several hundred who have existing consulting arrangements in place. Those scientists will be instructed to cease those collaborations once the ban is implemented, NIH officials said.

"We have identified vulnerabilities in our system that give us pause," NIH Deputy Director Raynard Kington wrote in the E-mail message. "It is clear to us that if these activities are to continue, we will need a substantially expanded system of oversight to assure Congress and the public that conflicts of interest are prevented."...

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