Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Editorial Argues Against Softening NIH Conflict of Interest Rules

The question of whether the NIH should soften its now stringent conflict of interest rules re-surfaced in an editorial in the Hartford Courant. Some choice quotes:

  • "Prodded by newspaper exposes and congressional inquiries, the NIH instituted a series of reforms. Scientists were barred from accepting compensation from the biomedical industry. Also, the NIH's top 7,000 staffers were prohibited from owning stock in individual medical companies, while all other employees were directed to limit their holdings to $15,000."

  • "The stock restrictions have raised the ire of a group calling itself the Assembly of Scientists, whose members have threatened to leave the NIH if the reforms aren't scaled back. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, who oversees the NIH, said he's considering their request, calling it a would-be 'softening of the conflict-of-interest policy.'

  • "In truth, it's more like selling out. Fortunes can be made or lost in biomedical stocks, based on the development or demise of breakthrough drugs and treatments. If researchers were allowed to replenish their portfolios with drug industry stocks, the temptations and biases of recent years would return in force. Mr. Leavitt should stand pat. The NIH's conflict-of-interest policy doesn't need any loopholes blown through it. "

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