Dr. Charles Nemeroff received a federal grant worth $2 million over five years from the Department of Health and Human Services' National Institute of Health (NIH), even though he is under investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
"Please explain how the NIH arrived at this decision to award Dr. Nemeroff despite past ethical problems," Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote to NIH director Frances Collins in a May 29 letter. "Was NIH aware that Dr. Nemeroff was under federal investigation? If so, why did NIH decide to award this grant anyway?"
Grassley's office told The Washington Examiner that Collins has not replied to that letter, which requested an answer by June 12.
NIH might not know about the investigation, but it must know about the "ethical problems" that prompted the investigation, because they took place while Nemeroff worked for NIH.
Pharmalot blogger Ed Silverman, who first reported on the letter, recalled that Nemeroff "was sanctioned for failing to disclose that he had accepted $1.2 million in payments from GlaxoSmithKline," which was an apparent conflict of interest given that "he was also the primary investigator for a National Institutes of Health study of the Paxil antidepressant," a drug sold by GlaxoSmithKline.
Nemeroff now works at the University of Miami. He was the Emory University chair of Psychiatry at the time that the Paxil issue arose. "Nemeroff’s penance was declared by Emory in December 2009: the loss of his chairman’s job at Emory and a ban on applying for NIH funding for two years," Nature News blog observed, noting that he got out from under that ban by joining a new academic institution.
Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General has collaborated with DOJ in investigating Nemeroff over the Paxil case. "So, there has been no final resolution by DOJ or public finding by HHS OIG related to the investigation of Dr. Nemeroff," Grassley reminded the NIH chief. "Yet, NIH awarded him another grant."