August 26, 2005
WASHINGTON - After accusations that some government scientists used their official positions for private gain, the National Institutes of Health announced rules on Thursday that ban scientists from consulting for drug companies.
"Our research should be based on scientific evidence that is not influenced by any other factors," Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni, director of the health institutes, said at a news conference.
The rules were issued after disclosures that scientists at the institutes had leveraged their positions to land lucrative consulting contracts that seemed to conflict or at least overlap with their official duties. Those contracts caused some critics to worry that research by the agency could be tainted.
An investigation by the agency concluded that 44 of its 1,200 senior scientists appeared to have violated rules governing consulting and that nine might have violated criminal laws.
The controversy surrounding consulting work and scientists' relationships with drug companies has been a black eye for the health institutes.
Investigations found that the health institutes had such poor and inconsistent controls over scientists' outside activities that the agency could not even answer basic questions by investigators about the extent of the problem.