SEPTEMBER 12, 2006
Scientists at the taxpayer-funded National Institutes of Health whose integrity has been corrupted by financial conflicts of interest continue to escape punishment while still collecting their hefty government paychecks.
Most of the 103 federal scientists investigated in the last year for improperly accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from drug companies or biotechnology firms have yet to face any consequences yet many remain on the government’s payroll.
The National Institute of Health, the nation’s steward of medical and behavioral research with an annual budget of about $28 billion, launched the investigations after Congressional hearings in 2004 revealed that many scientists were concealing their lucrative “consulting” deals with private companies, a violation of agency rules.
For example, eight out of the nine scientists who wrote the cholesterol-lowering guidelines recommending popular drugs such as Crestor had big financial interests in the companies that make the drugs. None have been disciplined or fined for their blatant violations.
Another high-profile case features a pair of well-known doctors who, not only did private work for drug companies on government time, they accepted thousands of unreported dollars from the pharmaceuticals that manufacture medicine for the diseases they research.
Prominent Alzheimer’s disease researcher Dr. Trey Sunderland took $600,000 unreported from the Pfizer drug company and cancer scientist Dr. Thomas Walsh failed to report more than $100,000 from pharmaceutical giant Merck. So far, no consequences for either government scientist, even though National Institutes of Health ethics officers say they committed “serious misconduct.”
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