WASHINGTON, D.C.—In late August, the National Institutes ofHealth (NIH) finalized rules to reduce financial conflicts of interests amongfederally funded researchers who also receive payments or stock from drug andmedical device companies.
The rules, which reportedly will affect more than 40,000researchers, come after several of high-profile cases in which federally fundedresearchers failed to disclose millions of dollars from companies with afinancial interest.
Researchers who receive more than $5,000 in income from drugor device companies must disclose the payments. Universities or otherinstitutions employing the researchers must collect the data and provide forpublic access to it.
Institutions will not be forced to discloseconflict-of-interest information online. Instead, they may maintain the dataoffline and provide it only when requested. Universities will be required todevelop plans to manage the financial conflicts of individual researchers, butthe plans do not have to be made public.
NIH director Francis Collins called the new rules "aninsurance plan against potential trouble downstream" while praising the "vastmajority of researchers" as ethical and sensitive to conflicts of interest.
"We depend critically on those [relationships] for advances inbiomedical research, but we do want to make sure … that the highest standardsof transparency and integrity are maintained," Collins said during ateleconference on Aug. 23.
The new rules will ensure that government-funded researcherscan continue working with private companies, Collins added.
Violations of these rules may be punished by suspension ortermination of research funding.
Conflict-of-interest rules were last updated in 1995.
In addition to the rules set forth by the NIH, severalstates have laws requiring public disclosure of physician and researcher incomefrom drug and device companies.