A new report claims that scientists with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) received at least $325 million in royalties from pharmaceutical companies in Russia and China, as well as other foreign entities over the course of a decade.
According to the New York Post, the report was released on Wednesday by the watchdog group OpenTheBooks.com. It claims that former NIH Director Francis Collins and former National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci were among those who received payments from foreign governments, from September of 2009 to October of 2020.
Several of the companies who gave royalties to government scientists subsequently received federal grants and contracts, which has raised concerns about conflicts of interest or pay-to-play schemes. Collins, for example, received payments from four different firms that have received over $50 million from the federal government since 2008. Fauci, meanwhile, claims that he has donated all of his royalties to charity.
The documents, obtained by OpenTheBooks through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, reveal that at least 34 different Chinese companies have licensed NIH technology that was funded by American taxpayers.
“As the most recognized official at NIH, Dr. Anthony Fauci was the face of the third-party royalties controversy,” said OpenTheBooks founder and CEO Adam Andrzejewski in a statement. “But our investigation was about a lot more than any single scientist. It was about allowing for scrutiny of these records for potential conflicts of interest, public health implications, and even national security implications for all of us.”
“Every American should understand the stakes in play when public health guidance is released by the federal government,” Andrzejewski continued.
The NIH allows its investors to receive up to $2,000 in their first collection from a licensee, and up to 15% for royalties between the amounts of $2,000 and $50,000; for amounts about $50,000, they are permitted 25% for royalties. However, they are not allowed to receive more than $150,000 annually from royalties.
Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) had recently raised concerns about excessive royalties for scientists within the federal government during a hearing of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. But his proposal to mandate disclosure of royalties from federal employees was rejected by Senate Democrats, along with left-wing Republican Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
“Some employees of the federal government are receiving royalties paid out by companies, including pharmaceutical manufacturers, who often have business before the agencies that oversee them,” said Senator Paul during the hearing in July. “Without this amendment, taxpayers, and Congress itself are left in the dark when trying to assess conflicts of interest.”