NIH shuts down controversial alcohol study due to credibility concerns

NIH shuts down controversial alcohol study due to credibility concerns
© Getty Images

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is officially shutting down a controversial study on the benefits of drinking following reports that agency officials solicited donations to fund it from the alcoholic beverage industry. 

“NIH has strong policies that detail the standards of conduct for NIH employees, including prohibiting the solicitation of gifts and promoting fairness in grant competitions. We take very seriously any violations of these standards,” said NIH Director Francis Collins.

ADVERTISEMENT

The NIH launched an investigation into the study following a New York Times story that revealed officials had vigorously campaigned the alcohol industry to fund the study while suggesting that the results would endorse moderate drinking as healthy. 

The NIH on Friday said a preliminary internal report shows “employees violated NIH policies in soliciting gift funding and circumvented standard operating procedures designed to ensure a fair competition for NIH funding.” 

“NIH will take appropriate personnel actions, but cannot comment on specific personnel matters,” the NIH said. 

The report also says NIH officials frequently engaged with the alcohol industry in a way that appeared to be “an attempt to persuade industry to support the project.”

The study was designed as a randomized clinical trial to determine the effects of one serving of alcohol daily, compared to no alcohol intake, on the rate of new cases of heart disease and diabetes. 

NIH said the study was launched because some studies have shown that moderate alcohol consumption might have health benefits.

The trial will end within the next few months following the completion of an “orderly closeout,” the NIH said.