NIH's conflicting interests

reported that several high-level scientists and officials at the National Institutes of Health had collectively received more than $2.5 million in consulting fees and stock options from drug and biotech companies, the NIH, Congress, and scientists are still at odds over the agency's conflict-of-interest rules.

Ted Agres
Dec 19, 2004

A year after The Los Angeles Times reported that several high-level scientists and officials at the National Institutes of Health had collectively received more than $2.5 million in consulting fees and stock options from drug and biotech companies, the NIH, Congress, and scientists are still at odds over the agency's conflict-of-interest rules.

In the latest round, nearly 180 intramural scientists in November wrote NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni to protest a proposed one-year moratorium (see http://www.the-scientist.com/yr2004/nov/biobus2_041108.html) on all paid consulting activities, including honoraria and lecture fees for speaking at NIH-funded universities. Such a prohibition risked turning NIH scientists into "second-class citizens in the biomedical community," they wrote.

Later that month, Zerhouni and about 150 staff scientists had an "open and frank" discussion, according to Michael Gottesman, deputy director for intramural research. The scientists argued that barring honoraria was a dis-incentive for lecturing and teaching. "There was general agreement that...

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