Top-ranking Senate Republicans demand answers on royalty payments to NIH employees

Dr. Fauci received 23 royalty payments of an unspecified value between Sept. 2009 and Sept. 2014
Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Francis Collins.

Five Republican senators on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee are demanding answers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) about royalty payments made by third parties to NIH employees.

In a letter Wednesday to NIH Director Lawrence Tabak, the senators noted that "the agency has taken no action to disclose such payments to the public at large."

When nonprofit organization Open the Books filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to learn about royalty payments between 2009 and 2020, the NIH "only provided the names of the employees receiving the payments and the number of payments they received between 2009 and 2014; the amounts of the individual payments, the innovation in question, and the names of the third-party payers were redacted," wrote Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), and James Lankford (R-Okla.) in their letter.

The FOIA revealed that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director, received 23 royalty payments during this period. As the highest-paid federal bureaucrat, Fauci's salary in 2021 was more than $450,000. 

Francis Collins, director of NIH from 2009-2021, received 14 royalty payments from 2009 to 2014, while his 2021 salary was more than $200,000.

Fauci's deputy, Clifford Lane, received 8 payments during this time, while he was paid more than $325,000 in 2021.

"Nevertheless, we believe that the American taxpayer deserves to know 1) the degree to which government doctors and researchers have a financial interest in drugs and products they support, and 2) whether any relationship exists between federal grants awarded by NIH and royalty payments received by NIH personnel," the senators explained. "Additionally, Americans deserve greater transparency in how the hundreds of millions in royalty payments NIH receives are distributed, and the degree to which NIH’s leadership – already among the highest-paid individuals in the federal bureaucracy – has benefited from this 'hidden' revenue stream."

The Republican senators are asking Tabak to provide the names of all parties involved in royalty payments made by third parties to NIH employees as well as the amount and date of the payments.