A key congressional spending panel has fired a shot across the bow of two federally chartered medical foundations, warning that the way they disclose information about donors may not pass muster. It’s the latest controversy involving the traditionally low-profile foundations, which over the past quarter-century have funneled nearly $2 billion to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for research, clinical trials, training, and educational programs.
Congress created the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) and the CDC Foundation in the early 1990s to raise private funds to support federal biomedical and health research. It hoped to encourage transparency and prevent potential conflicts of interest by specifying in the law that the foundations had to report “the source and amount of all gifts” they receive, as well as any restrictions on how the donations could be used. But last week, legislators on the House of Representatives appropriations subcommittee that oversees NIH and CDC expressed concern that the foundations may not be following those disclosure rules, which are spelled out in the Public Health Service Act (PHSA). (The FNIH provision is here, the CDC Foundation provision is here.)
A report accompanying a 2019 spending bill moving through Congress reminds the foundations to abide by the PHSA when writing their annual reports (here and here). The lawmakers also say it’s not OK to hide the identity of donors who have attached strings to their gift by labeling them as “anonymous.”