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NIH Moratorium Would Halt Industry Consulting

Article excerpt

The National Institutes of Health plans to impose a 1-year moratorium on all consulting arrangements between its employees and pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies.

The action comes after months of congressional hearings that identified a number of outside activities by NIH employees that were not reported to the agency.

"Although NIH has not yet completed our review and analysis of individual consulting activities, we have identified vulnerabilities in our system that give us pause," NIH deputy director Raynard S. Kington, M.D., said in a memo to employees. "It is clear to us that if these activities are to continue, we will need a substantially expanded system of oversight to assure Congress and the public that conflicts of interest are prevented."

The proposed moratorium will affect both new and existing arrangements for all NIH employees. It is expected to be quickly implemented once approved by the Bush administration, an NIH spokesman said.

The move is a reversal for Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., NIH director, who told Congress earlier this year that he did not favor a complete ban on industry interactions because these interactions are important in furthering science.

Dr. Zerhouni had previously proposed banning senior management and employees with funding or granting responsibilities from consulting with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies or engaging in paid consulting with academia. …