Financial incentives and royalty payments for researchers working on drug trials revealed under US FOI

The US Senate Finance Committee is investigating allegations of conflicts of interest and the conduct of clinical trials at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a federally funded medical research network.

The Committee is producing a report about NIH following allegations by Jonathan Fishbein, a former NIH employee, over sub-standard clinical data for the Hivnet 021 Aids trial it conducted in Uganda. This comes amidst numerous revelations about financial incentives received by researchers working with NIH on drug trials.

Information obtained under the US Freedom of Information Act, suggests that around 916 current and former NIH researchers received $8.9m (€6.8m, £4.7m) in royalty payments for drugs and inventions whilst working for the government. On average, researchers received $9,700 each, with twelve earning the maximum of $150,000.

Critics claim that clinical trial results for Aids drugs were presented in an overly positive light extending beyond allegations surrounding the Hivnet 021 trial and now involve other Aids experiments, some of which were conducted in the US.

Senate seeks inquiry into medical research body (Financial Times, 12 January 2005)