NIH Said to Drop Rule for Reporting Conflicts Online

Jocelyn is a staff writer for Science magazine.

The U.S. government has dropped a plan to require universities to publicly disclose online what drug companies pay their faculty members, according to a report yesterday in Nature.

NIH's press office did not confirm the report on the status of the National Institutes of Health (NIH's) long-delayed revised conflicts-of-interest rules and would say only that "the current rule is under consideration by the Office of Management and Budget." But if the report is correct, the change would address complaints from academic organizations that the requirement to post the data on a Web site was too costly and would confuse the public.

Last summer the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the Association of American Universities suggested that NIH instead set up a central database for disclosing conflicts. The groups said this would complement a federal database slated to go online in 2013 in which drug companies will be required to report payments to physicians.

Nature 's story says universities will now be given a choice about how to disclose the information and don't have to create a web site. AAMC's Anthony Mazzaschi says he's "not sure it's that big a change" because universities would still have to make the information publicly available. But the news upset Harvard Medical School's Eric Campbell, who studies conflicts of interest in biomedicine. "There has to be a mechanism to verify what drug companies say," and the best way would be with searchable public databases, Campbell says.

Some major academic medical centers have voluntarily begun posting faculty dislosures online. But the format and details vary. For example, the Cleveland Clinic lists industry relationships in its doctor profiles but reports only company names, not dollar amounts.

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