April 5, 2018

Director of National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Must Be Removed

Statement of Dr. Michael Carome, Director, Public Citizen’s Health Research Group

In light of the disturbing revelations this week that National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) Director Dr. George Koob has been doing the bidding of the alcohol industry, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Dr. Frances Collins should immediately demand his resignation or fire him.

On April 2, STAT reported that Dr. Koob in 2014 – soon after he became the NIAAA director – had assured the senior vice president for science at the Distilled Spirits Council, the leading alcohol industry trade group, that under his watch, the NIAAA no longer would fund research evaluating the effects of alcoholic beverage advertisements, research that the alcohol industry disdains. Moreover, at the same time he was providing these assurances, his institute was seeking nearly $70 million from the alcohol industry to pay for an NIAAA study assessing the health effects of moderate alcohol consumption. STAT also reported that in the 1990s, an industry group funded Dr. Koob’s own research at the Scripps Research Institute.

In a follow-up story on Wednesday, STAT reported that since Dr. Koob became NIAAA director, the institute has not funded any new alcohol advertising research.

This reported misconduct does not relate to ancillary or minor issues at the NIAAA. Rather, it involves the NIAAA’s core mission. The institute cannot function effectively without independence from the alcohol industry and must support science-based inquiry into industry practices without fear of industry retaliation.

These circumstances indicate that rather than acting in the best interest of the American public, Dr. Koob has been acting at the behest of the alcohol industry’s interests. The only way to excise this corruption from within the NIAAA and begin to restore public trust in the institute is for Dr. Koob to resign or be fired.        

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