Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Group 2, NIH Conflict of Interest

Hey guys its Cassie, and today we talked about the case #10 which was about the NIH (which from what we gathered has some pharmaceutic researchers) and how the company told its employees that they cannot hold stock with the companies they are researching, because this would be a conflict of interest. Well, we decided that it would be far to implement this rule on ones employees except many of the employees has been relying on the stocks for income, kind of like giving someone a cookie and then taking it away  ->not cool.
We all pretty much agreed that the ability for the employees to hold stock needed to be eliminated, but this dilemma lead us into a few other conversations.
One conversation was how people look for a high paying job vs choosing a career that they would enjoy, while another about the definition of terrorism and how the terrorist in any situation... would be the people whom are opposing you.... no matter who you are!
Nicole noted a movie called "the Kingdom" that touched on the subject.

Even though our rabbit trails lead us to more rabbit trails, we all concluded that it would not be cool to have benefits taken away from you, like the employees of NIH, but we agreed it needed to be done for morale issues.  Some thoughts we had on helping to ease the situation would be to offer another benefit in its place...... but as Nick noted.... he did not think that telling the employees to stop buying stock from companies would actually keep them from doing it.... because they could just "give the money to an uncle and tell him to invest it for you". *shrug

Cas :)
(And we welcomed Michael to our group!)


  1. I would add that I do not believe that taking away these individuals stock portfolios would be beneficial. While there is an obvious ethical conflict here, denying these people there stocks goes against our capitalist culture.
    As I pointed out in class, in America, prominent professionals in their respective fields are drawn to employers that will offer them the greatest financial gains.
    By this logic (that I admit is cynical) the best doctors will go to private corporations and not the government. This will then strengthen the private research and weaken the government controlled research, which will lead to more biased research anyway.

  2. About the cookie example.. Sure it wouldn't be 'cool' to take the cookie away but sometimes things have to be done when things don't go as planned. To me it's like bringing a steak dinner to an impoverished Africa and eating it while everyone else stares at you with hunger. Sure it may be yours and you have the right to eat it, but how does that make everyone else feel?

  3. i feel that if a person decides to go into Government service that they should understand that there may be some things they will have to sacrifice. Government service should not be about personal gain, rather insuring the masses receive the highest product available. if an employee at the NIH had stock in medical companies they would not only have to worry about the ethical choice of promoting a certain company, but also the possibility of insider trading. the ability to pass or fail a drug would have profound impact on a companies revenue stream. this would lead those pharm companies to lobby the NIH and thus show favoritism, lowering the best health care available to us all. a true professional would see this, but human greed again shows its ugly head.

  4. I think that most people work for money and not for the personal satisfaction of a job well-done. Not exactly cynical, just realistic. This creates the incentive for a corporate career instead of a government position wherein benefits (that are common elsewhere) are denied. And this scenario might weaken the quality of research for government funded projects. Refusing to allow employees the same stock-option benefits they can expect elsewhere would probably only work if the demand for ethical researchers were exceptionally high. If there were other benefits in place for "ethical" researchers (such as recognition, prestige, or starting pay) that compensated for the monetary gains achieved from a position within private research, perhaps this situation would not be as corrupt as assumed.

    Personally, I don't think it is a good idea for NIH to tell their employees that they have to forfeit benefits in which they've previously been able to invest. It would be best to put a restriction or limit for current employees, and attempt to fade out the practice for new hires with the understanding that anyone who is participating in stock purchases of this kind in the future will have their ethics called into question. Not to be cynical again, but people are usually easily influenced by societal expectations. They want to do what is deemed socially acceptable, and making the practice frowned upon (as I think it probably should be) would make a difference. Not with everyone of course, but I don't think it's fair to expect NIH to police all their employees. Mostly, they should focus on creating quality research by hiring quality employees and refusing to accept substandard ethical practices.

    On a lighter note, I do believe that there are people who want a career leading to happiness instead of huge dollar signs. I just don't know how many of them are in the medical field...

  5. I agree that NIH employees need to be held, and need to hold themselves, to a higher standard of service. How else do you build public trust in an institution whose reason for being is to reassure us all that public health is treated by top officials and regulators as a higher priority than personal profit?

  6. I agree with Nick, in that as a Government official you should give up some amenities in order to enact a greater good upon society. It's like when you join the military, we go in knowing that we will forfeit some of our rights that we so diligently fight for. We do this because it is for the greater good of our country. And NIH employees, being government employees should also be held to this standard. Although, I also feel that the current employees shouldn't be forced to give up their stock that they already own since that wasn't the norm when they went into the job, but you could prevent them from purchasing new stock themselves. And just not offer it to new employees.