BETHESDA, MD—In the wake of heightened concern over possible conflicts of interest at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), former NIH Director Harold E. Varmus now believes that institute and center directors should be prohibited from consulting for companies that might be candidates for research grants. Other NIH officials responsible for major programs should also be barred from participating in certain kinds of financial activities with outside companies, he said.

Varmus urged NIH's “blue ribbon” panel on conflict of interest policies to recommend limits on the amount of money that NIH employees could receive from outside companies as well as the amount of time they could devote to such activities before triggering an internal ethics review. “These should not be rules or regulations, but guidance so that when such limits are proposed to be exceeded, those cases are referred to a conflict of interest committee to review them,” Varmus told...

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