Drug company funding for universities under more pressure

Lately, universities have been taking a hard line when it comes to gifts from drug companies, with some setting strict limits that ban even pens and Post-It notes with pharma logos on them. Now, universities are scrutinizing drug company funding further, under fire from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who's pushing NIH to crack down on universities who don't disclose such funding.

On Tuesday, Sen. Grassley shot off the latest in a series of letters on the topic, this one stating that a researcher working for the University of Texas who worked on an NIH study involving GlaxoSmithKine's Paxil didn't disclose more than $150,000 in fees paid to her by the pharmaceutical firm. Grassley has also slammed Standford, Harvard and the University of Cincinnati for similar disclosure problems. Meanwhile, another 20 universities have been contacted by the Senate Finance committee over questions of whether their faculty face conflict of interest problems in their relationships with pharmas.

Striking fear into the hearts of medical researchers everywhere, Sen. Grassley has said that he'd like to see NIH begin pulling grants from universities that don't report researchers' outside incomes from drug firms as required by law. In the case of University of Texas, we're talking about $5 billion in NIH grants, so the stakes are extremely high. With this kind of firepower pointed at them, expect to see universities make some very public gestures to prove they're making full disclosure in coming months.

To learn more about this controversy:
- read this Wall Street Journal piece (sub. req.)

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