Transparency group forced government to disclose hidden payments

Over a 10-year period, the National Institutes of Health, agency scientists and executives such as Dr. Anthony Fauci received a total of $350 million in royalty payments from third parties, such as pharmaceutical companies, according to an independent investigation that obtained government documents through a lawsuit.

The probe by Adam Andrzejewski and his non-profit OpenTheBooks.com examined the royalty payments for inventions by agency scientists between fiscal years 2010 and 2020.

In addition, NIH granted $30 billion to about 56,000 recipients, OpenTheBooks.com found, noting that the “largess of taxpayer money buys a lot of favor and clout within the scientific, research, and healthcare industries.”

As for the lucrative royalty payments to NIH scientists, the non-profit said, each one “could be a potential conflict of interest and needs disclosure.”

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Andrzejewski said the NIH documents are heavily redacted, and only the number of payments each scientist received is disclosed along with the aggregate amount per NIH agency. The amount of the individual payments is blacked out.

Among the NIH leadership and top scientists receiving royalty payments are Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Francis Collins, the NIH director from 2009 to 2021.

Fauci, whose 2021 taxpayer-funded salary was $456,028, received
23 payments. Collins, whose salary that year was $203,500, got 14.

And Clifford Lane, Fauci’s assistant, whose salary was $325,287 in 2021, received eight payments.

Andrzejewski said it’s been a “struggle to get any useful information out of the agency on its royalty payments,” with NIH acting like the payments “are a state secret.”

NIH, he added, “defied the federal Freedom of Information Act law and refused to even acknowledge our open records request for the royalty payments,” which was filed last September.

He said NIH also used expensive taxpayer-funded litigation to “slow-walk” royalty disclosures, releasing the oldest royalties first.

While the agency admits to holding 3,000 pages, Andrzejewski said, it will take 10 months to produce them.

Represented by Judicial Watch, OpenTheBooks.com sued NIH in federal court last October.

“NIH is essentially telling you, the taxpayer, to pay up and shut up,” Andrzejewski said. “They’ll run things. They have forgotten that they work on behalf of the American people.”

He noted that in 2005, the Associated Press successfully used FOIA to reveal that 900 NIH scientists collected $9 million in royalties. The documents showed that 51 royalty recipients were working on experiments involving inventions for which they were already being paid.

Among the 51 scientists was Fauci, who received $45,072.82 between 1997 and 2004 for a patent license on an experimental AIDS treatment. NIH funded that treatment with $36 million.

In February 2021, Andrzejewski noted, Fauci received a $1 million prize from the Dan David Foundation in Israel for “speaking truth to power” during the Trump administration.

“When a federal bureaucrat pops up on television giving us health instructions, who has paid them and for what research and technology?” Andrzejewski asked. “When a patient agrees to a clinical trial or experimental treatment, what financial interests are involved?”

“NIH needs to come clean with the American people,” he concluded, “and open the books on the line-by-line royalty payments to the agency and its scientists.”

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