Senate questions NIH conflict-of-interest punishment

There have been a number of reports of federal government researchers violating ethical standards by accepting money from drug and device industry players, as of late. But according to the NIH, of the 44 people accused of improper conduct, only two have faced criminal punishment--Doctors Trey Sunderland and Thomas Walsh. The rest received nothing more than a slap on the wrist or were asked to retire. Despite their conduct, the researchers in question can't be fired because they are members of the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. At a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee yesterday, lawmakers questioned why the researchers hadn't been held accountable for their actions. It seems as though NIH officials recognize corruption among some of their employees but aren't necessarily proactive in removing them from the agency.

For more on the conflict-of-interest cases:
- check out this AP report
- read the report for the Los Angeles Times