NIH to end industry-funded study of alcohol’s benefits
The U.S. government is shutting down a study that was supposed to show if a single drink a day could prevent heart attacks, saying ethical problems with how the research was planned and funded undermine its credibility.
The National Institutes of Health used money from the alcohol industry to help pay for a study that ultimately was expected to cost $100 million. Adding private money to taxpayer dollars for research is legal under certain rules. The problem: An NIH investigation concluded Friday that a small number of its employees had close contact with industry officials that crossed those lines.
Some of those interactions “appear to intentionally bias” the study so it would have a better chance of showing a benefit from moderate alcohol consumption, said NIH Deputy Director Lawrence Tabak.
Those employees, from the NIH’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, then kept their interactions with industry secret, he said, after the NIH started the appropriate process for asking companies or other outside groups to help fund a research project.
Those actions cast “doubt that the scientific knowledge gained from the study would be actionable or believable,” Tabak told a meeting of the NIH director’s advisers.
Another concern: Some outside experts who had reviewed the study plans raised concerns that it was too small and too short to address the potential problems of a daily drink – such as an increased risk of cancer or heart failure – and not just potential benefits such as a lowered risk of a heart attack.