Beginning in 2003, news stories charged that hundreds of National Institutes of Health scientists were engaged in ethically dubious practices, including consulting for or holding stock in companies whose products might benefit from NIH support. After internal and congressional probes of these potential conflicts of interest, NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni announced on Feb. 1 "drastic" ethics reforms.
From now on, no one at NIH may accept even unpaid side work with any organization that might have a financial interest in any research or other activity going on at, or supported by, the agency. Furthermore, NIH employees in key positions and members of their immediate families will be forced to sell stock holdings in biomedical firms. Other employees may hold no more than $15,000 in such stocks.