Policy Letter

POGO letter to NIH Director Collins: Ethics reform at NIH needs a more ethical leader

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.


National Institutes of Health

One Center Drive

Bethesda, MD 20892

Dear Dr. Collins:

We ask that you arrange for Dr. Thomas Insel to step down as a leader of the NIH's effort to change its current rules on financial conflicts of interest. As we understand it, he is scheduled to remain in this position until the final rule is announced, which is likely to be several months from now.

The mushy ethical standards that Dr. Insel has set for himself are apparent from events first described on June 6 in The Chronicle of Higher Education. A few days later we wrote about him in an article entitled "A leader of ethics reform at NIH seems to think the rules don't apply to him," posted on the POGO website. We ended by saying:

The NIH is trying to improve its ethical standards -- and repair its damaged public image -- by tightening the rules on financial conflicts of interest. POGO asks: Is it appropriate for Dr. Insel to lead this effort? NIH Director Francis Collins should deal with this question promptly and publicly. It's a problem that should be easy to fix.

We would be glad to meet with you to discuss this issue if you think it would be useful. In any case, we wish you success in helping your colleagues improve the rules on financial conflicts of interest.


Daniel Brian, Executive Director

Ned Feder, M.D., Staff Scientist

Project On Government Oversight

1100 G Street, NW, Suite 900

Washington, DC 20005