Nominated Director of NIH Division To Delay Arrival Over Concerns About Revised Agency Ethics Guidelines
David Schwartz, a physician nominated to become the new director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Science at NIH, has "postponed his arrival indefinitely" because of concerns about revised agency conflict-of-interest guidelines, the Washington Post reports (Weiss, Washington Post, 3/30).
The guidelines, announced by NIH Director Elias Zerhouni on Feb. 1, will restrict the ability of NIH employees to enter outside consulting agreements with pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, health insurers and health care providers. The guidelines also will mandate that about 6,000 top NIH employees cannot hold stock in pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies and require current stockholders in the group to sell their shares. The guidelines will become final in early April after a 60-day comment period (California Healthline, 3/17).
Schwartz, currently the director of pulmonary medicine and critical care at Duke University Medical Center and vice chair of research at the university, planned to assume the position at NIH on April 11 with a team of more than 12 other Duke researchers.
However, in a letter to Zerhouni and HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt earlier this week, Schwartz raised concerns about the guidelines, which had not been implemented when he agreed to take the position at the agency. According to unnamed sources who have discussed the issue with Schwartz, he has concerns that the guidelines might restrict his ability to recruit and retain scientists.
NIH officials on Tuesday said that they likely would resolve the issues with Schwartz. "We fully anticipate and look forward to Dr. Schwartz assuming his position," NIH Deputy Director Raynard Kington said. Schwartz was not available for comment on Tuesday (Washington Post, 3/30).