May 20,2010

Grassley Says NIH Conflicts Policy Would be a Step in the Right Direction

WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley said today that changes proposed today by the National Institutes of Health, or NIH, to its conflict of interest policies for federally funded medical research would be an important step in the right direction.

The NIH has drafted new regulations in response to investigations by Grassley and others that showed that researchers failed to accurately disclose their financial relationships with industry.  The proposal announced today is now open for public comment for 60 days under the federal rulemaking process.

“Disclosure of financial relationships and the resulting accountability have been sorely lacking in federally sponsored research,” Grassley said.  “I’ve worked for greater transparency through legislative reform and administrative changes.  I’ve urged the NIH to flex its muscle and use the power of its grants, which are prestigious and sizeable, to bring about transparency.  Enforcement of current requirements has been lax, and the federal agency has failed to send a message to grantees that accountability in this area matters.”  The NIH awards approximately $24 billion a year in grants for medical research. 

Grassley said he will review the proposal released this morning and most likely weigh in with comments.  “I’m interested in meaningful transparency and more accountability,” Grassley said.  “Letting the sun shine in and making information public is basic to building people’s confidence in medicine.  And with the taxpayer funding that’s involved, people have a right to know.  Public trust and public dollars are at stake.”

Since 2007, Grassley has conducted extensive oversight and led an effort to require pharmaceutical and medical device companies to report payments made to physicians.  In his oversight work, Grassley has identified a number of cases where there was vast disparity between the payments received from drug companies and what was reported by leading medical researchers.

In response to the findings, a number of drug companies have begun disclosing payments to physicians voluntarily.

Both the Institute of Medicine and Medicare Payment Advisory Commission have expressed the need for greater reporting requirements.