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Public Health Vs. Personal Wealth: The NIH In Action

We've seen the many recent examples of federal agencies charged with protecting the public health taking it on the chin from the FDA (thanks to my newest hero Dr. David Graham) to the Institutes of Medicine and the CDC. Now, it's the National Institutes of Health (NIH) turn in the spotlight and, folks, the news isn't any better.

A trio of articles featured in today's Los Angeles Times detailed the blurring of the greater good -- supposedly the optimal health of Americans -- at the NIH when commerce -- meaning Big Pharma -- so obviously taints the decision-making process.

So, if you have no doubts that drug you may be taking is completely safe, consider this: According to the LA Times, MORE THAN 500 government scientists at the NIH have taken fees, stock or stock options from biomedical companies OVER THE PAST FIVE YEARS! Apparently, that's not a problem to NIH Director Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni who has told Congress outside work by NIH scientists should be allowed if "the scientist is giving advice in an area... that is not part of his official duties."

Also, if you're not convinced the power of greed as wielded by Big Pharma doesn't have an effect on the toxic drugs you read about on my Web site or see or advertised in the media, here's some examples of the six-figure sums and stock options paid to NIH scientists.

  • Dr. H. Bryan Brewer Jr. accepted about $114,000 in consulting fees from four companies making or developing cholesterol medications between 2001-03, including $31,000 from the maker of Crestor.
  • Dr. P. Trey Sunderland III, a senior psychiatric researcher, took $508,050 in fees and related income from Pfizer at the same time that he collaborated with the company -- in his government capacity -- in studying patients with Alzheimer's disease.
  • Dr. Harvey G. Klein, the NIH's top blood transfusion expert, accepted $240,200 in fees and 76,000 stock options over the last five years from companies developing blood-related products.

Taxpayers -- that means you and me -- fund NIH's current $28 BILLION budget. Its ongoing mission: To extend healthy life and to reduce "the burdens of illness and disability" by overseeing research.

What a sham... and what a shame!

Los Angeles Times December 22, 2004

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