Public Release: 

Physician organizations urge Secretary Thompson to defend NIH review process

Infectious Diseases Society of America

In light of growing controversy that has emerged over congressional scrutiny of certain grants funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA) sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson calling on him to support the public health value of research and to defend the integrity of the peer-review process that funds federal research grants.

While the level of government involvement remains unclear, more than 150 research grants on controversial but important public health issues, mainly dealing with HIV prevention and sexual behavior, have been subject to congressional inquiries. NIH staff has contacted the grantees to put them on notice of possible investigations.

"Both IDSA and HIVMA are concerned that undue ideological influence might jeopardize the scientific review process and, in fact, might result in public policy that runs counter to scientific evidence and the best available medical practices," said Joseph Dalovisio, MD, IDSA President.

IDSA and HIVMA urge Secretary Thompson to issue a public message to ensure the research community and the public that NIH, the world's flagship research institution, is committed to making funding decisions based on scientific merit and that the NIH peer-review process is sound and essential.

"At a time when public health officials must find more effective ways to target those most at risk for HIV and other infectious diseases, it is unfortunate to see scores of grants that might offer new insight about how to effectively reduce transmission of HIV and other diseases under scrutiny and attack by special interest groups and some politicians with no expertise to judge the scientific merit of such research," said Paul Volberding, MD, chairman of the HIVMA Board of Directors.

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The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) is a national medical society that represents more than 7,500 infectious diseases physicians and scientists devoted to patient care, education, research, and community health planning in infectious diseases. The HIV Medicine Association, nested within the IDSA, represents 2,600 physicians and other health care providers who practice HIV medicine. We represent the interests of our patients by advocating for policies that ensure a comprehensive and humane response to the AIDS pandemic informed by science and social justice.

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