In 2008, Shannon Brownlee and Jeanne Lenzer explained in The BMJ how journalists often forget that conflicts of interest may bias the opinions of their expert sources. So they compiled a list of more than 100 independent health care experts to whom reporters can turn. We have hosted that list on our site. (We recorded interviews with Brownlee and Lenzer for a podcast so you could hear from them directly.)
The list has always included a secondary group of experts with a variety of potential conflicts. Some of these experts have ended their industry 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.
Beginning on July 1, 2017, we offer an updated, revised list.
Members of our list of independent experts state that they do not have financial ties to drug or medical device manufacturers. Interested journalists seeking access to the complete list with contact information, please submit a Request Form. These requests are reviewed by Brownlee, Lenzer, Adriane Fugh-Berman, MD of Georgetown, and HealthNewsReview.org publisher Gary Schwitzer. Once approved, journalists will receive access to a spreadsheet with contact information for the individuals listed.
Specialists and specialty research interests on the list
There are a lot of people listing specialties and specialty research interests on the list, including: emergency medicine, psychiatry/psychology, breast cancer, preventive medicine, public health, neurology, cardiology, bioethics, dermatology, pharmacology, orthopedic surgery, hematology/oncology, health law, palliative medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, maternal-fetal medicine, brain injury, alternative/complementary/integrative medicine, etc.
But about half of the people on the list are primary care physicians. There are also non-physician members with specialty interests in ethics, drug promotion, direct-to-consumer advertising, disease-mongering, pharmaceutical policy, pharmacy compounding, drug costs, drug and device approval, conflicts of interest, health systems, insurance, politics of healthcare, regulatory affairs, research methodology, reporting of research studies, publication ethics, bias, pseudoscience, risk literacy, shared decision-making, predictive analytics, heuristics in medicine, epidemiology, health disparities, medical errors, overdiagnosis, overtreatment, child development, etc.
Journalists shouldn’t be discouraged if they don’t find a specialist on the list in the sub-specialty field they’re covering. Many of the primary care physicians on the list and non-physicians on the list are expert in helping people learn how to evaluate evidence and improve critical thinking about health care claims. And many people on the list would be pleased to suggest others who could be interviewed on a given topic. So journalists can use the list as a door-opener to more complete stories.