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NIH Scraps $100 Million Moderate Drinking Study As Unethical Behavior Surfaces

Jun 16, 2018 01:34 AM EDT
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The National Institutes of Health is scrapping a $100 million study designed to observe whether moderate drinking can contribute to a healthy diet.

External and internal investigations discovered that officials accepted solicitations from the alcohol industry as funding for the study that's dedicated to seeing if moderate drinking really is healthy and provides less risks for heart diseases.

The $100 million Moderate Alcohol and Cardiovascular Health (MACH) project was intended to run for an entire decade. It kicked off on February 2018, then got suspended on May of the same year over the allegations that could sacrifice the integrity of the trials.

The Controversy

New York Times first reported about the NIH controversy back in March, revealing how agency officials and scientists sought funding for the project and pitched the idea to a room full of executives from the alcohol industry.

The publication says that documents and interviews painted a fishy picture of the institute launching a campaign to secure the financial support of the industry. Scientists even reportedly traveled to meet executives and suggest that the study will result in the healthy benefits of moderate drinking.

People involved in the alcohol industry were also granted information on the trials including the investigators and sites part of the trials, number of study participants, and other details. In the study, the participants will be able to choose their drink of choice and no type of alcohol would be noted in the results as preferable than the others.

Executives even reportedly provided some input into the trial design.

Multiple health officials have already spoken out against the unethical practices of the study.

"Industry influence on the NIH research agenda should be avoided. It's very important that NIH make research decisions independently," Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman, a pharmacology professor at Georgetown University, says in a recent report of the New York Times. "NIH should focus on studying what industry does not want to study."

NIH Releases Statement

In an official release from the NIH, the federal agency discloses that an internal investigation confirms that some NIAAA employees "violated NIH policies in soliciting gift funding and circumvented standard operating procedures designed to ensure a fair competition for NIH funding."

"The integrity of the NIH grants administrative process, peer review, and the quality of NIH-supported research must always be above reproach," NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. says in a statement. "When any problems are uncovered, however, efforts to correct them must be swift and comprehensive."

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