Potential conflicts of interest do not imply wrongdoing, but can create bias, distort decision making, and create a perception that practitioners are being “bought “or “bribed” by industry.
Transparency alone may not be sufficient to erase the doubts created when authors of clinical practice guidelines or editorials declare potential conflicts of interest. Can the subconscious obligation for reciprocation that exists when gifts are offered and accepted be fully negated?
Analyses of published clinical cancer research studies have found a positive association between pharmaceutical industry sponsorship and reporting of positive outcomes, manipulation of clinical trials, and hiding of “preliminary data sets”. More problematic is the issue of clinical researchers leaking preliminary results to the investment industry.
Influential literature reviews and treatment guidelines have been associated with widespread declarations of conflict of interest.
Some potential solutions are: regulating pharmaceutical companies to declare all gifts to clinicians, or ban such gifts; for clinicians to carefully declare potential conflicts of interest or to provide pro bono advice without accepting industry sponsorship; and for all gifts and payments from industry to academic physicians to be coordinated by an independent review committee.
Journals should only allow reviews, editorials, guidelines and opinion pieces to be written by those without significant conflicts of interest.
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