December 05, 2006
NIH researcher to face charges over consulting fees
Federal prosecutors have charged a government Alzheimer’s researcher with engaging in a conflict of interest by earning $285,000 in private consulting fees from Pfizer, the Associated Press reported. The National Institutes of Health’s Dr. Trey Sunderland was accused of performing the consulting work that improperly overlapped with his government duties. The conflict-of-interest charge, filed in US District Court in Baltimore, carries a maximum of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. Court papers said that Sunderland failed to get proper approval from NIH for his consulting work and didn’t properly report $285,000 in consulting fees and travel money from Pfizer that “directly related” to his federal research responsibilities. Sunderland’s case was highlighted during a congressional investigation that got under way more than two years ago. The investigation examined the large number of NIH scientists who earned money moonlighting as consultants for private pharma and biotech firms. Sunderland’s attorney, Robert Muse, and the NIH declined to comment to the AP on the development. Sunderland is scheduled to appear in court in Baltimore on Friday.