Five years ago, the National Institutes of Health abruptly pulled the plug on an ambitious study about the health effects of moderate drinking. The reason: The trial’s principal scientist and officials from the federal agency’s own alcohol division had solicited $60 million for the research from alcohol manufacturers, a conflict of interest and a violation of federal policy.
Recently, that scientist and another colleague from the aborted study with alcohol industry ties were named to a committee preparing a report on alcohol and health that will be used to update the federal government’s guidelines on alcohol consumption.
The appointments of the two men, Dr. Kenneth Mukamal and Dr. Eric Rimm, both of Harvard, have not been finalized yet, Megan Lowry, a spokeswoman for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, whose food and nutrition board formed the committee, said this week in response to an inquiry from The New York Times. Members of the public can submit comments on the tentative appointments through Wednesday, Dec. 6.
Less than an hour after this article was published, Ms. Lowry emailed to say the academies had decided not to include Dr. Mukamal and Dr. Rimm on the panel.
“After considering public comments the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have received on provisional appointees to a committee that will review the evidence of the effects of alcohol on health, Eric B. Rimm and Kenneth J. Mukamal are no longer being considered for service on the committee,” Ms. Lowry wrote.
Dr. Rimm, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who has said in various financial disclosures that he has accepted money from the alcohol industry, had been nominated to chair the committee.