July 07,2009

Press Contact:

Jill Kozeny (Grassley) 202.224.1308
Ashley Glacel (Kohl) 202.224.5364

Grassley, Kohl work to bring transparency to biomedical research funding.

WASHINGTON – Today Senators Chuck Grassley and Herb Kohl sent a letter to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), urging the federal agency to take steps to increase transparency of federally funded biomedical research. NIH is seeking public comment as it considers changes to its disclosure policy, and the senators made specific recommendations related to both individual researchers and academic institutions who receive NIH grants.

“In January 2008, the HHS OIG released a disturbing report which found that NIH provided almost no oversight of its extramural funds. It is clear that this is a pervasive problem that requires an immediate change in NIH requirements for disclosure of potential conflicts of interest by their grantees,” the letter reads. “With almost $24 billion in extramural funds distributed by NIH each year, and in light of the additional $10 billion provided by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act to fund research grants, it is imperative that NIH properly fulfills its mission to advance the public’s welfare and makes responsible use of the funding provided.”

The senators suggested that researchers be required to report their outside income to the nearest $1000, and that universities be required to complete a plan to manage the researcher’s potential conflicts of interest. Finally, they maintained that both the disclosures and the plan be available to the public via the NIH website.

In February, Grassley and Kohl filed an amendment to the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) which would have placed new requirements on institutions receiving NIH grants. NIH awards almost $24 billion annually in grants for biomedical research, and the ARRA increased that figure by $10 billion. In addition to provisions similar to the suggestions made in today’s letter, the amendment would have required the agency to actively enforce its conflict of interest policies and respond in a timely manner when those policies have been violated by grantees. The amendment was not included in the final bill.
For the past two years, Grassley and Kohl have collaborated to push for increased transparency in financial

relationships between physicians and the drug, device and biologic industries. As part of that effort, they have championed the Physician Payments Sunshine Act (S. 301) to require these industries to publicly report payments and gifts to doctors. Recently, identical provisions to those in S.301 were included in the health care reform discussion documents released by the Senate Finance Committee. Similar provisions were included in the House draft bill as well.

Grassley is Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Finance. Kohl is Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging. Below is the text of their letter to NIH.