The Washington Post reports that “the National Institutes of Health has finalized rules to reduce financial conflicts of interests among federally funded researchers who also receive payments or stock from drug and medical device companies.” New regulations state that if a researcher receives at least $5,000 from a drug or device company they must disclose the funds, although institutions will not be required to post that information online, as originally proposed. The new rules were created following several cases where “federally funded researchers failed to disclose millions of dollars from companies with a financial interest in the outcome of their work.” The Post says that NIH Director Francis Collins lauded “the ‘vast majority of researchers’ as ethical and sensitive to conflicts of interest,” and “called the new rules ‘an insurance plan against potential trouble downstream.’”
Bloomberg News adds that Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) “last year tried to force institutions to detail industry ties and post them to the Internet. Instead, the rules give the schools an option to disclose ties on a request-only basis.” Director Collins called the rules “a significant change and one that will further strengthen the integrity of the really remarkable scientific community that has been conducting research with, for the most part, the highest ethical standards.”
Reuters reports that in the past, institutions had only to keep track of conflicts of interest and to tell NIH that such conflicts had been addressed and that amounts less than $10,000 had not been considered conflicts. The rules will cover approximately 2,000 institutions and 38,000 scientists. Reuters cites several cases of conflicts of interest not being disclosed in the past.
The Wall Street Journal quotes Director Collins saying that research “needs an additional layer of oversight,” and explains that not only do the rules lower the amount that counts as constituting a conflict, but broadens the definition to include financial interests of a researcher’s immediate family and any of the researcher’s professional duties.
From the American Association for Justice news release.