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Worth the Hassle?

Recently implemented disclosure rules at the US National Institutes of Health may not be living up to expectations, Nature News reports.

The agency put new conflict-of-interest rules into place in 2012 following a 2008 Senate investigation that found that Charles Nemeroff, an Emory University psychiatrist, had failed to disclose some $1.2 million in income from drug companies. The new rules require researchers to report whether they've received more than $5,000 from any outside source, to provide greater detail about any relationships with industry, including sponsored travel, and to disclose relationships with nonprofits. The researchers' institutions then determine which relationships may be problematic.

But Nature News reports that institutions use varying thresholds to make those judgments, and many universities say that the cost of implementing the new rules hasn't been balanced by the discovery of new conflicts of interest.

For instance, Yale University's Andrew Rudczynski says the school spent $500,000 to put the new COI rules in place. The following year, researchers there doubled the number of disclosures they made, but the school only uncovered one new conflict.

Paul Thacker, who led the Senate investigation as a member Senator Charles Grassley's staff, tells Nature News that it is unclear whether the new rules are working, but argues that greater scrutiny is needed.

Nature News adds that NIH plans to review these COI reforms later this year.