Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has sent a letter to the National Institutes of Health demanding to know why the NIH recently gave University of Miami psychiatrist Charles Nemeroff a grant of about $400,000 a year for five years.
Grassley pointed out that he had criticized Nemeroff earlier for “failing to fully disclose industry income” when he was publishing papers about the effects of drugs. Those accusations concern events when Nemeroff was at Emory University.
Previous investigations by Grassley’s staff concerned allegations from 2008 that Nemeroff failed to disclose $1.2 million in consulting arrangements from GlaxoSmithKline, maker of the antidepressant Paxil, while leading a $9 million NIH grant studying depression.
UM and Nemeroff did not immediately respond to a request for comment, although Nemeroff has previously said he did nothing wrong. He told the Herald previously that news reports had not made clear that his talks were about GSK drugs now on the market, while his research funded by NIH involved basic lab studies of GSK chemical compounds that were years away from market. That work did not promote GSK products, he said.
UM medical school says its policy is for full disclosure of faculty revenue. The school has set up a website so the public can see doctors’ funding sources.
“It’s troubling that NIH continues to provide limited federal dollars to individuals who have previously had grant funding suspended for failure to disclose conflicts of interest and even more troubling that the administration chose not to require full, open, and public disclosure of financial interests on a public website,” Grassley wrote to NIH Director Francis S. Collins, with a copy to UM President Donna Shalala.
Grassley’s letter, dated Tuesday, noted that Nemeroff has been the subject of an investigation of the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services, and the OIG is waiting to see if the U.S. Department of Justice wants to take action before the OIG report is released.
The letter offered no details on what the investigation entails.
In his letter to NIH, Grassley asked six questions, including: “Was NIH aware that Dr. Nemeroff was under federal investigation? If so, why did NIH decide to award this grant anyway?”