A nonprofit recently reported that since 2009, the National Institutes of Health and many of its scientists have received approximately $350 million in royalties for developing experimental treatments. Some kept the money, but Dr Anthony Fauci said he donated the royalties he received to charity – a detail omitted in some online posts about the payments.
In 2005, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told The Associated Press that he donated royalties he received from licensees of products he helped develop. while working for the National Institutes of Health.
But that detail was not mentioned in a number of recent online posts about new reports of royalties paid to Fauci and other NIH scientists since 2009.
Earlier this month, OpenTheBooks.com, a self-proclaimed government watchdog, reported on about 1,200 documents obtained from the NIH. The documents would show that over the past decade, the NIH and hundreds of current and former agency researchers received tens of thousands of third-party royalty payments for drugs and other treatments they received. invented.
“Recently, our organization at OpenTheBooks.com forced the NIH to disclose more than 22,100 royalty payments totaling nearly $134 million paid to the agency and nearly 1,700 NIH scientists,” Adam Andrzejewski wrote, founder and CEO of the group, in a May 9 report. “These payments took place during the last period available (September 2009 – September 2014).”
He said the group is still waiting to receive 1,800 pages of NIH documents on royalty payments from 2015 to 2020, but estimates that “between fiscal years 2010 and 2020, more than $350 million in royalties were paid by third parties”, such as as pharmaceutical companies, “to the agency and to NIH scientists – who are credited as co-inventors” on NIH patents.
The payments are legal, but Andrzejewski argued they represent a potential conflict of interest and should be fully disclosed to the public. But many details, such as who made the payments and individual amounts, were redacted in the documents, he said.
“When a federal bureaucrat appears on television to give us health instructions, who paid him and for what research and technology?” he asked in his message. “When a patient accepts a clinical trial or an experimental treatment, what are the financial interests at stake?”
He added, “Rather than relentless redactions and protracted court battles, it’s high time for the government to routinely disclose royalty payments.”
What the documents revealed, Andrzejewski said, is that in the period from September 2009 to September 2014, Fauci received 23 royalty payments; Dr. Francis Collins, who served as NIH director from 2009 to 2021, received 14 payments; and Dr. H. Clifford Lane, NIAID assistant director for clinical research and special projects, received eight payments.
But the post on OpenTheBooks.com, titled “Fauci’s Royalties and NIH’s Hidden $350 Million Royalty Payment Stream,” never mentioned that Fauci said he was donating his royalties to charities. (This information is mentioned in a separate information sheet on the group’s investigation.)
Likewise, when actor and comedian Russell Brand read almost all of Andrzejewski’s original report in a 16-minute YouTube video that has more than a million views since May 15, Brand also didn’t more mentioned that Fauci had said a long time ago that he does not keep the money he receives.
Instead, Brand said, “Well, there you go. Anthony Fauci, who has been proclaimed a saint, seems to me to have feet of clay. It seems to me that he may be fallible. It seems to me that he can accept payments.
Also, a May 11 period time the article quoted several Republican lawmakers criticizing Fauci over the royalties. But the article did not add Fauci’s earlier statements about not keeping the money.
Royalties paid to Fauci and other NIH scientists have come under scrutiny at least once before, in 2005. The AP, based on information obtained through requests from the Freedom of Information Act, reported that in 2004, more than 900 current and former NIH researchers received royalty payments totaling $8.9 million for drugs and other inventions they developed while employed by the government.
“Government scientists collected millions of dollars in royalties for experimental treatments without having to tell patients testing the treatments that the researchers had a financial connection, according to documents and interviews,” the AP said.
The news agency reported that Fauci and his deputy, Lane, both received around $45,000 in royalties between 1997 and 2004 for interleukin-2, a potential AIDS treatment they developed with another NIH physician, Joseph Kovacs.
“Both doctors said they were extremely sensitive to the possibility of an apparent conflict of interest and took steps on their own to address it even as they waited for their agency to do what they thought should have been done all along – fully disclosing the payments to patients,” the AP said.
Fauci told the AP he tried to refuse the royalties but was told by officials he was legally obligated to accept the money. He also said he was told he should not disclose the payments on his federal financial statement, which is publicly available upon request, because the payments were considered federal compensation rather than outside income.
He said he chose to donate his royalties instead. “I’m going to donate every penny of it to charity … whatever the annual amount is,” Fauci said.
The AP said Lane kept the royalties he received, but occasionally provided patients with newspaper articles indicating he was listed on the interleukin-2 patent.
At the time, the NIH had only recently implemented a policy to disclose its scientists’ financial stakes to patients, the AP reported.
We are unable to confirm whether Fauci has donated his past royalty payments as he said, nor have the NIH or NIAID said what Fauci’s current practices are.
In a statement to FactCheck.org, the NIH said, “Royalty payments to NIH inventors are considered revenue, and NIH does not track how individual employee earnings are spent beyond what is federal financial disclosure requirements.”
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Andrzejewski, Adam. “Fauci’s Royalties and the NIH’s Hidden $350 Million Royalty Payment Stream.” OpenTheBooks.com. May 9, 2022.
“NIH FY2010-FY2014 Royalty Disclosures.” OpenTheBooks.com. May 9, 2022.
“You were right.” Youtube. Uploaded by Russell Brand. May 15, 2022.
Solomon, John. “AP Exclusive: Federal Investigators Did Not Inform Patients of Financial Interest in Experiments.” Associated Press via NBCNews.com. January 10, 2005.
Tanne, Janice Hopkins. “Royalty Payments to Staff Researchers Are Causing New Problems for NIH.” BMJ. 2005 Jan 22.
National Institutes of Health. Email FactCheck.org. May 20, 2022.