The Los Angeles Times reports that a scientific researcher from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) increased his annual salary by adding more than $600,000 to his income over an eight-year period.
As part of the arrangement, he provided to a drug company samples of spinal fluid drawn from patients who were being studied as part of a government research project.
The consulting arrangement was revealed at a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Documents provided at the hearing showed that from 1996 to 2004, the NIH scientist was paid about $612,000 including about $285,000 for his consulting work related to the use of spinal fluid samples taken from patients who participated as volunteers at NIH.
The committee staff estimated that it cost the federal government more than $6 million to collect the samples that the scientist sent to the drug company.
The consulting arrangement was apparently not approved by the agency. In 2005, the NIH decided to put a halt to employees accepting consulting fees or stock options from pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. But, according to an agency public affairs spokesman, federal employees were prohibited from outside arrangements that overlapped with their government work under the more permissive ethics rules that were previously used by the agency.