Conflict of Interest Still Looms Over NIH Contractor
Should the National Institutes of Health let a contractor accused of conflicts of interest investigate itself?
WASHINGTON, April 3 — After the Environmental Working Group (EWG) revealed that contractor Sciences International (SI) worked for companies who made chemicals under review by the agency, NIH let the company conduct its own internal investigation into conflicts of interest. Not surprisingly, SI found no problem, and proposed a policy that will allow it to decide if the agency needs to be informed of future conflicts of interest.
SI has been paid millions in taxpayer dollars over the past eight years to determine whether bisphenol-A (BPA) and other important commercial chemicals harm human reproduction and development. Client lists from SI's website indicate that the company was simultaneously working for the very companies that use and produce BPA and other chemicals under review. SI replied in writing to NIH that its own internal investigation found no conflict of interests over the issue of (BPA). However, SI still has not provided a complete client list, or details of their employment by the chemical industry.
The explanation by officials at SI that its internal review concluded there was no conflict of interest is completely unsatisfactory.
"SI's superficial response to these serious allegations underscores the need for an independent investigation of contractor conflict of interest at the NIH," said Richard Wiles, Executive Director at EWG. "It's bad enough the Bush administration outsourced research into the effects chemicals could have on our children to a company that works for the chemical industry. It's even worse when they allow the same companies to decide whether these arrangements present a conflict of interest. It is time for an independent investigation of contractor conflicts of interest at NIH."
EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, D.C., that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment.