The National Institutes of Health will no longer be going through with a study of moderate drinking and heart disease because it was industry funded. The director of the NIH said that there were several ethical and scientific lapses in the planning of the study.
Officials said that this study would not have been scientifically believable.
NIH Nixes Study On Moderate Drinking
NIH shut down the study after an investigation prompted by a New York Times story showed that the alcohol industry was funding the research. It announced that employees of the NIH violated policies that included soliciting gift funding and going around standard operating procedures.
Investigators examined the Moderate Alcohol and Cardiovascular Health (MACH) Trial and found that there were interactions between NIH officials and members on the alcohol industry since 2013. They found that those members kept secret contact between them and alcohol industry officials. Investigators said that this was a warning sign that there were problems in the study.
Investigators cited this contact with the alcohol industry as evidence of not maintaining impartiality during the process for NIH funds. The study was being carried out by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). It was accepting funding from alcohol companies in a study that was trying to find the health benefits of drinking alcohol. The NIAAA sent messages to alcohol executives saying that the study could show that moderate alcohol consumption is safe.
A New York Times story in March revealed what was happening between the NIAAA and the alcohol industry. On March 20, the NIH said it would examine whether officials violated government policy by contacting alcohol companies for funding. In May, NIH suspended enrollment while it reviewed the study.
Scientific Flaws In The Study
During the investigation, it was also found that the study had scientific flaws. These included having too few patients and not having enough follow-up time. Not having enough follow-up time could lead to showing the benefits that drinking has while ignoring the harm that could come from it.
The trial managed to attract 105 participants for the study and used $4 million of NIAAA money. The study was supposed to be a randomized clinical trial to show the effects of having one serving of alcohol daily versus no alcohol on the rate of new cases of heart disease and diabetes. Originally, the NIH said the reason for the study was because others have shown that moderate alcohol intake may have health benefits.