NIH Reprimanded Employee Over Conflicts of Interest

October 23rd, 2008

Posted by: admin

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported yesterday about the case of Dr. Ned Feder, an NIH employee who wrote to several publications suggesting that NIH grantees disclose payments they receive from medical companies.  The payments are rarely made public, either in articles published from the associated research or in grant applications.  Given that the results of this research will influence what products are prescribed or used, the conflict of interest – at least the potential for it – should be clear.

However, the NIH does not require disclosure of these payments, or of consulting arrangements between researchers and companies.  The latter usually has to be disclosed to the researchers’ home institutions, but that information remains confidential. Dr. Feder argued for strong public disclosure of any kind of financial relationships between researchers and medical companies as a condition of receiving grant money.  The NIH recently had to deal with incidents where researchers failed to disclose payments from pharmaceutical companies.  It has risen to the point where Senator Grassley has been investigating the matter.  Their response to Dr. Feder was to formally reprimand him, an action that was rescinded after protest.  While I can understand the need for an agency to present a consistent stand on matters of policy, their unwillingness to embrace this kind of open accesss is disappointing.  Dr. Feder is no longer with NIH, and works now for the Project on Government Oversight.

I’ve written before about the effort toward open access.  I consider this kind of disclosure (which shouldn’t be restricted to biomedical research) an important part of that access.  It’s not enough that publicly funded research should be available to all.  The sources of funding are as important to the research as the findings, particularly when particular treatments, technologies, or policy choices would be encouraged by the results.

One Response to “NIH Reprimanded Employee Over Conflicts of Interest”

  1. stan Says:

    Sounds like the NIH folks would have been comfortable working at bond rating agencies like S&P and Moody’s. Conflicts? What conflicts?