According to a non-profit government watchdog the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and hundreds of its experts including the recently retired director of the organization Dr. Francis Collins and Dr. Anthony Fauci (the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases [NIAID] at the U.S. National Institutes of Health and chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden) received an estimated $350 million in undeclared royalties.
“We estimate that up to $350 million in royalties from third parties were paid to NIH scientists during the fiscal years between 2010 and 2020 ” ‘Open the Books’CEO Adam Andrzejewski told reporters in a telephone news conference on May 9. ‘Open the Books’ is a Chicago-based non-profit government watchdog that uses the federal and state freedom of information laws to obtain and then post on the internet trillions of dollars in spending at all levels of government.
“We draw that conclusion because in the first five years there has been $134 million that we have been able to quantify of top-line numbers that flowed from third-party payers meaning pharmaceutical companies or other payers to NIH scientists.”
Andrzejewski said that the first five years from 2010 to 2014 account for 40% of the total and that they know that 1 675 scientists received at least one payment during that time. For instance $36 million or $21 100 per scientist was paid out in fiscal year 2014 according to Andrzejewski. They also discovered that NIH leadership participated in accepting funds from outside parties throughout this time. Francis Collins earned 14 payments. Dr Anthony Fauci received 23 payments while Clifford Lane his assistant received 8 payments.
Andrzejewski informed reporters that the NIH is refusing to open its books in 2022 because the Associated Press extensively covered its royalty payments in 2005 including detailed information about who received what sums from which payers for what activity.
He said: “At that time we knew there were 918 scientists and each year they were receiving approximately $9 million on average with each scientist receiving $9 700. But today the numbers are a lot larger with the United States still in a declared national health emergency. It’s quite obvious the stakes in health care are a lot larger.”
He said the files Open the Books is receiving—300 pages of line-by-line data—are “heavily redacted”: “These are not the files the AP received in 2005 where everything was disclosed—the scientist’s name the name of the third-party payer the amount of the royalty paid by the payer to the scientist. Today NIH is producing a heavily redacted database; we don’t know the payment amount to the scientist and we don’t know the name of the third-party payer all of that is being redacted.”
According to Andrzejewski the hidden royalties present inherent conflicts of interest:
“We believe there is an unholy conflict of interest inherent at NIH. Consider the fact that each year NIH doles out $32 billion in grants to approximately 56 000 grantees. Now we know that over an 11-year period there is going to be approximately $350 million flowing the other way from third-party payers many of which receive NIH grants and those payments are flowing back to NIH scientists and leadership.”
Fauci and Lane agreed there was an appearance of a conflict of interest in getting the royalties with Fauci saying that he contributed his royalties to charity (such a convenient excuse). Lane didn’t.
Andrzejewski’s appeal for clarification on the disclosure problem has gone unanswered by NIH.
“If they are not none of these payments are receiving any scrutiny whatsoever and to the extent that a company making payments to either leadership or scientists while also receiving grants … then that just on its face is a conflict of interest ”he said.
The organization filed a federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit to get records of any payments made to the NIH or to current or former NIH staff by outside businesses.
‘Open the Books’ is challenging the NIH in court for violating the FOIA after the agency declined to reply to the request for information. Another non-profit government watchdog Judicial Watch is defending it in the case before a federal court.
This might be a micro picture of the macro one in the whole global health and medical establishments including locally.