NIH Prohibits Employees from Collaborating with Pharmaceutical Companies

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NIH Prohibits Employees from Collaborating with Pharmaceutical Companies

New ethics regulations from the National Institutes of Health (NIH, Bethesda, MD, have banned all NIH scientists from new and existing collaborations with pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies.

NIH issued the regulations in response to increasing concerns about conflict-of-interest consulting activities of some its employees. "Nothing is more important to me than preserving the trust of the public in NIH," said NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, MD, in a statement to the press. The Los Angeles Times reported in 2003 that several NIH scientists had received significant compensation from collaborations with drug and biotech companies, including one case in which a top drug maker paid an NIH employee $517,000 in fees, reimbursement, and honorariums over five years.

Under the new standards, all NIH employees are prohibited from paid or unpaid consulting services as well as compensated teaching, speaking, writing, or editing for groups including biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and medical device companies; healthcare providers; health insurers; science-related professional, trade, or advocacy groups; and educational or nonprofit organizations. In addition, the amount of stock NIH employees can own in pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies will be limited.

"I am confident that these new rules will prevent the recurrence of past abuses and will go a long way in preserving the historic role of NIH as the primary source of unbiased scientific health information for the country," Zerhouni noted.

–Kaylynn Chiarello