Pressure is building on the National Institutes of Health to ease conflict-of-interest rules after two US representatives, Chris Van Hollen and Tom Davis, sent a letter to NIH director, Elias Zerhouni, asking him to adopt a 90-day suspension on the regulations, which were implemented earlier this year over concerns that some portions “will inhibit the NIH’s ability to attract and retain quality research professionals, thus jeopardising the health and safety of the American public.”

In the letter, they state: “We believe that the proposed regulations are overbroad and, unless refined, could dangerously undermine the mission of NIH… Our concern centres around the likelihood that the regulations in their current form will seriously erode the ability to recruit and retain scientists and medical professionals at America’s premier institutions for biomedical research.”

They go on to say that some top NIH scientists have already stated that they will leave their positions at NIH rather than accept the terms of the new regulations, which effectively ban scientists from consulting for pharmaceutical companies and holding shares in such firms.