An amendment put forward today by Sens. Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Herb Kohl (D-WI) as part of the Senate’s economic recovery bill would better illuminate conflicts in federal biomedical grants by requiring the National Institutes of Health to enforce its conflict of interest policies and respond to violators in a timely manner.

The Grassley-Kohl amendment would address systemic problems in the way grantees’ conflicts get reported – or don’t – problems that turned up in a series of recent investigations by Sen. Grassley.

The amendment also would require the following information to be given to the NIH by grantees receiving NIH in excess of $250,000:

a.   The amount of the primary investigator’s significant financial interest, estimated to the nearest one thousand dollars b.   A detailed report on how the grantee institution will manage the primary investigator’s conflict of interest.

“It’s become clear that the federal rules in place to manage conflicts of interest in research aren’t enforced as they ought to be, and there’s an opportunity to strengthen them here, as well,” Grassley said in a statement.

“NIH grants are highly competitive,” Kohl said in a statement. “The government has a right to know whether the scientists it funds have a financial stake in the outcome of their research.”

The two senators also introduced the Physician Payments Sunshine Act earlier this session, and are resisting attempts by industry to weaken the bill, according to Inside Health Policy (subscription required). A Senate aide told the IHP that strengthened provisions – including a preёmption clause that allows states to collect other information, stronger penalties, and a lower reporting threshold — are not up for major negotiations, but the sponsors need to hear from supporters of the new, strong bill. To send a letter online, go here.