Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Yankee Doodling

NIH updates its conflict of interest guidelines

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 31 August 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d5493
  1. Douglas Kamerow, chief scientist, RTI International, and associate editor, BMJ
  1. dkamerow{at}

How much does the public need to know about reports of conflicts?

Last week the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) published its long awaited final rule on conflicts of interest.1 2 In doing so it tried to balance the benefits of increased disclosure of financial connections between NIH funded investigators and the industry with the drawbacks of a greater burden of reporting and loss of privacy.

This issue came to broad public attention about three years ago, when a series of investigations by Senator Charles Grassley uncovered several highly publicised scandals. A few NIH funded scientists were found to have huge undisclosed investments in drugs they were testing or to have received large “consulting” fees that had not been reported to their universities.3 They were disciplined.

Financial relationships between academia and industry have grown dramatically in recent years. A widely publicised 2009 report on conflicts of interest from the Institute of Medicine documented that growth.4 More than two thirds of academic departments and most department …

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