You can find conflict-free experts in health care, medicine and science

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We’ve posted the following Publisher’s Note on

Conflicts of interest among sources of health/medical news and information represent an enormous – and growing – problem.

Health care consumers, and news consumers, are often not told of the biases that may exist in medical research, in clinical care, or in health care professionals’ continuing medical education because of financial ties to drug companies and medical device manufacturers.

Journalists, broadcasters, editors, and producers too often rely – wittingly or unwittingly – on drug industry sources. The result: medical news often helps sell drugs to the public, accentuating the positive and minimizing risks, rather than giving readers a balanced, accurate view.

To counter claims that it is impossible to find experts who are not on the payroll of industry, independent journalists Jeanne Lenzer and Shannon Brownlee have compiled a list of more than 100 experts from several nations with expertise across a wide range of disciplines. There are two parts to the list. One part includes experts who have no financial conflicts of interest, or conflicts that are irrelevant to most stories. The second part includes experts with a variety of potential conflicts. Some of these experts have ended their pharma ties – but only within the past five years. Others may have current financial conflicts of interest. These experts, despite their commercial ties, are included in the list because they have provided important insights into the inner workings of industry – effectively biting the hand that fed them in some instances –and/or because their conflicts did not limit their ability to comment in areas unrelated to the conflicts.

The experts include: two former editors of the New England Journal of Medicine, the former editor of the western journal of medicine, current editors of American Family Physician and Public Library of Science-Medicine; former FDA advisors; physician educators; researchers; bioethicists; epidemiologists, methodologists, geneticists, and clinicians from a various specialties; medical whistleblowers; and several medical journalists.

Information about the list appears in the “Journalist Toolkit??? section of the site at: If you’re a journalist, you’ll be given instructions about how to acquire the list, complete with experts’ contact information. The general public will be able to see the list of names without any contact information.

It’s our hope that this list helps journalists find and use sources who do not have financial conflicts of interest. We hope that the general public understands the gravity of these issues and their impact on the integrity of medical science.

For further information on the list see: Naming Names: Is There an (Unbiased) Doctor in the House? BMJ July 23, 2008.

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Please note, comments are no longer published through this website. All previously made comments are still archived and available for viewing through select posts.

Keith Sarpolis

August 7, 2008 at 12:52 pm

Dear Gary,
Not to be picky, but wouldn’t it be proper disclosure of potential conflict of interest on your part to mention you are included on the list of unbiased sources for journalists to consult?
And what field of medicine would you consider yourself an expert in?
I truly am a big fan of your work, but couldn’t help in pointing out the irony of the situation. To promote this list on your blog could be construed as self promotion for yourself.

Gary Schwitzer

August 7, 2008 at 2:14 pm

Yes, I am on the list.
I guess if I’d seen anything about this being a conflict of interest, I would have pointed that out. I didn’t, and still don’t, but here’s the disclosure. I was asked to be on the list by its creators, Shannon Brownlee and Jeanne Lenzer.
What field of medicine would I consider myself an expert in? None. The list, as explained on the site, includes “100 experts from several nations with expertise across a wide range of disciplines” – including journalism.
I have been involved in, and studied, health and medical journalism for 35 years. I have specific interests in media coverage of health policy, DTC advertising, shared decision-making, health care/research ethics, disease-mongering and conflicts of interest in health care My bio, if you need it, is at:
None of this is meant to be self-promotional. You asked for the information.
Gary Schwitzer

Keith Sarpolis

August 7, 2008 at 3:22 pm

thanks for the eclarification. I guess my issue qould be if the people on this lost intend to be compensated for their time as experts, which I assume they would. If so, there would indeed be bnenfit to the individuals on the list and consequently spreading the word on your widely read blog could be seen as advertising your services. Having followed your blog for the past 2 years, I know this was not the intent. But as you have so keenly demonstrated, there is need to have balanced reporting and full acknowledgemnt of any potential conflicts in reporting and responsible journalism. You have made it clear that much of what we receive today is nothing more than paid infomercials.
Keith Sarpolis

Gary Schwitzer

August 7, 2008 at 3:28 pm

NO, these experts are NOT being compensated for their time. This is all volunteer time and effort.
Gary Schwitzer