The National Institutes of Health needs to create regulations to prevent financial conflicts of interest among the institutions that receive its research grants, according to a report from HHS' inspector general's office (PDF).
NIH told to create rules on conflicts
The report, based on survey responses from 156 institutions that received research grants from the NIH— including universities and medical schools—found fewer than half (70) have written policies and procedures to address their financial conflicts of interest.
“Therefore, NIH lacks information on the number of institutional conflicts at its grantee institutions and the impact these conflicts may have on NIH-sponsored research,” according to the report.
Federal regulations already require these institutions to have written policies that indentify and mitigate their employee-researchers' conflicts of interest but no such rules govern the financial relationships of the institutions. The NIH is finalizing a rule to tighten conflict requirements (PDF) for individual researchers who receive its funding. However, the NIH opted not to pursue such regulations for the institutions where those researchers are employed.
Apparently indicating the need for such regulations for institutional relationships, the report found that 21 institutions acknowledged existing financial conflicts of interest.
No immediate action by the NIH is planned on the issue of institutional conflicts, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the NIH, wrote in a response letter included with the report.
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