Reuters: hidden conflicts common in journal articles

Reuters Health published an important story, “Financial transparency skin-deep at medical journals.” Excerpts:

“Nobody is making sure that authors declare their conflicts of interest.

That has a very real potential to influence public health and corporate bottom lines, experts say, because researchers with industry ties are more likely to promote drugs and downplay side effects.

“At its worst, it can allow patients to have unrealistic hopes about a treatment for their conditions,” Dr. Virginia Barbour, chief editor of the journal PLoS Medicine, told Reuters Health. “And it can distort the prescribing practice of physicians.”

In a review of 50 reports from the British Journal of Dermatology, a top-tier skin research journal, Reuters Health has found that authors often don’t disclose even the most glaring conflicts of interest. And editors are reluctant to do anything about it — in fact, they don’t even agree on when a conflict of interest exists.

What’s more, many journal publishers derive a substantial part of their revenue from drug ads and reprint requests from pharmaceutical companies, and there are examples of editors who moonlight as paid consultants for the industry.

“Editors probably need to be more vigilant than they are at the moment,” said Barbour, whose journal doesn’t run drug ads. “And I think that editors also need to be very aware that they themselves can be part of the competing interests.”

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June 11, 2011 at 5:37 pm

Thanks for posting this important article.
Do conflicts of interest pave the way for spin of non-significant data? Does this spin affect the uptake of new medical technologies?
Dr. Wini Hayes of Hayes, Inc. discusses these concerns in a similar blog article: