Thursday, March 03, 2005

Who Paid Those Who Protest the New Stringent Policy Against Conflict of Interest at the NIH?

The LA Times has yet more on the NIH. A committee of dissidents has been arguing that the new restrictions on outside income, consulting, stock options etc imposed by Director Zerhouni are too strict. The group complained that the new regulations "discourage talented, innovative scientists from staying at or being recruited to the NIH." According to the LA Times, committee members include:
"Dr. William E. Paul, chief of the laboratory of immunology at the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Paul from 2000 to early 2004 accepted a total of $380,000 in fees from Suntory Pharmaceuticals Research Lab and Novartis AG, plus $40,000 in travel expenses from Novartis."
"Howard A. Young, a microbiologist and section chief in the National Cancer Institute's laboratory of experimental immunology. Young received stock options for 500,000 shares from Advanced Viral Research Corp. from 2002 to 2003 to compensate him as a consultant."
"Dr. Harvey J. Alter, a blood-transfusion specialist at the NIH Clinical Center, the world's largest center for medical research on humans. Alter accepted $34,000 from six companies from 2001 to 2003."
"Dr. Steven K. Libutti, a researcher and surgeon with the National Cancer Institute. Libutti accepted $21,000 in consulting fees from two biomedical companies, Peregrine Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Therapro Consulting, from 2003 to 2004."
And two others who got smaller amounts from industry.
So is this committee supporting the ability of the NIH to attract talented scientists, or supporting the ability of its members to make a lot of money?
As long as NIH leaders get large payments from industry in addition to their full-time salaries, their loyalty will thus remain in question. This just once again illustrates the corrosive effect of the payments NIH leaders received on the their perceived trustworthiness.

1 comment:

InformaticsMD said...

As Victor Satinsky, MD used to say in his tough training programs for high school students interested in biomedical careers, "If you don't like it, DON'T COME."

Even in pharma, only upper-level people make the really big bucks. I, for one, would gladly work at NIH for a stable salary and relative job security without extracting big fees from industry.

But then, I have scruples.