Drugs and Ethics.

Very interesting piece on Slate today about NIH's spanking-new ethics rules. In the article, Richard A. Epstein, a University of Chicago law professor (and, it should be noted in this context, consultant for Pfizer and PhRMA, the drug industry trade association), makes the case that the new rules, which were implemented largely in response to two high-profile ethics breaches, are overkill. "These two incidents and others like them flatly violated the pre-existing version of the NIH rules, which requires full disclosure of potential conflicts," he writes. "The private sector often follows a similar model. The NIH's main response to the miscreants should have been to boost enforcement of the sensible rules it already had in place rather than piling on new ones."

But that's never really an option in the federal ethics arena, is it? Stepped-up enforcement of existing rules is never treated as a serious option when a scandal hits. (Prediction: It won't be in the post-Darleen Druyun Pentagon, either). This wouldn't be that big a deal if not for the fact, as Epstein notes, "the NIH's policy is likely to drive qualified physicians and scientists out of the national labs where they're most needed - and slow the pace at which treatments and cures come to market."