The National Institutes of Health conducted a $100 million study on alcohol consumption, but it will have to be canceled due to credibility concerns. That is because almost $70 million of the study’s funding came from the alcohol industry.
The study was initially intended to answer an ongoing question- whether having a glass of wine or a bottle of beer a day or basically moderate drinking has a positive effect on one’s health.
A media investigation found out, however, that staffers at NIH requested the alcohol industry to fund the study. In response to such, the federal agency conducted a probe of its own.
The federal agency’s own investigation affirmed that indeed the NIH staffers asked funding from the alcohol industry. More shockingly, emails were discovered including one where an employee admitted they were not supposed to be emailing the alcohol industry. The height of the irregularity, however, is when the staffers suggested they would “tailor” the results of the study to favor the donors.
The media expose also alleged that staffers, including prominent scientists and a senior federal health official, pitched the project as a “study that could change the American diet” to an audience composed of liquor company executives. The staffers were accused of claiming that the study will use a big clinical trial that may deliver all the necessary medical evidence to recommend a daily alcoholic drink as part of a healthy lifestyle. In turn, they allegedly ask the executives to cough up $100 million.
The study was first suspended in May while the NIH carried its own probe. NIH Director Francis Collins said it’s improbable now that the results of the said study would be regarded as credible at this point.
It is not yet clear what charges- if any- whether criminal or administrative will face the employees involved in the fund's solicitation. It is also not clear yet whether the NIH will re-do the study, start all over again with different people involved and under closer scrutiny, or will scrap the project altogether.