Elias Zerhouni, M.D., head of the National Institutes of Health, told a congressional committee the agency will tighten restrictions on its scientists' work with drug companies, including random audits to catch unreported conflicts of interest.
Zerhouni's proposal came as lawmakers cited evidence of alleged secret deals in which some NIH scientists apparently didn't report industry consulting deals, including one worth half a million dollars over five years.
The House oversight subcommittee is investigating 100 consulting cases that it is not clear the agency knew about, said Rep. James Greenwood (R-Pa.), the panel's chairman.
Some NIH collaboration with industry is vital to translate discoveries into medical practice, said Zerhouni, but Tuesday he said he will tighten ethics restrictions to guard against conflicts, including:
- A total ban on outside consulting by senior NIH officials and anyone involved in awarding NIH research grants.
- No NIH employee can receive stock as payment. Also, many will be prohibited from holding stock in individual medical companies, and others will be limited to $5,000 worth.
- Outside work will be limited to 400 hours a year, with payment limited to 25% of base salary.