Congressman Chaka Fattah, Democrat of Pennsylvania, is touting the National Football League’s $30 million gift to the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health. He says it’s a model of corporate and government partnership on public health.
I, too, want to talk about why I think this is a model — a horrible one.
Toward that end, I cite the poisoned history of NIH’s research grants, over at least a six-year period starting in the early 2000s, to a team at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, which turned around and used the money to help start a for-profit company called ImPACT Applications, Inc. Thanks to a marketing blitz (which would be laughable if the subject weren’t so serious and the stakes — the long-term mental health of a significant percentage of American males — weren’t so high), ImPACT’s “concussion management” software is widely considered some kind of solution to traumatic brain injury in football, even though a growing number of observers have come to realize it’s nothing of the sort.
So today I posed these questions to Congressman Fattah, but he hasn’t responded as yet:
1. Do you agree with UPMC’s refusal to make public the commercial conflict-of-interest disclosures relative to its applications for this grant money?
2. If your answer is no, will you seek to make these documents public?
3. What is your rejoinder to the argument that the NIH-UPMC-ImPACT model reinforces misgivings about the new NFL-NIH relationship, of which you speak so highly?