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NIH Office of the Director (OD)

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

OD Office of Communications
and Public Liaison

NIH Statement About Outside Consulting Arrangements

The National Institutes of Healthís first priority is to uphold the highest standards for patient safety, ethical practices, and scientific excellence. We are concerned by the recent allegations about NIHís process for managing conflicts of interest. NIH takes this issue very seriously. We are vigorously investigating these allegations, because openness and review are our best allies. To the best of our knowledge, NIH and its employees have followed all the current government ethics rules. It is clear, however, that we will need to consider changes after a thoughtful analysis of the issue.

The NIH has already taken steps to bring greater transparency and more stringent review of NIH scientistsí outside activities. On November 20, 2003, NIH Director Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni announced that he is establishing a standing committee to strengthen NIHís management of conflict of interest issues (see attached memo Adobe pdf graphic with link to free Adobe Acrobat Reader site).

Furthermore, Dr. Zerhouni has called for a Blue Ribbon Panel of the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director and additional outside experts to review how NIH addresses outside consulting activities, in order to identify systemic solutions for improvement. Also, Dr. Zerhouni has ordered an immediate review of every outside consulting relationship entered into by NIH employees within the last five years, to confirm that all rules and regulations are being followed and that the activities are in the best interest of the public.

It is important that our scientists stay involved in the science and health community beyond NIH to share their broad knowledge in their respective fields. At the same time, we recognize that there must be stringent standards and transparent policies for managing potential conflicts of interest. Full disclosure is essential. We must continue to protect patient safety and the publicís interest, while advancing science to address important health problems.

The National Institutes of Health is committed to doing everything possible to avoid even the perception of a conflict of interest. Again, we are dedicated to uphold the highest standards for patient safety, ethical practices, and scientific excellence. As the Federal agency entrusted by the American people to discover cures and develop treatments for devastating diseases, we can do no less.

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