Financial conflicts of interest in guidelines

A new study published in the BMJ shows the prevalence of financial conflicts of interest in the panel members producing clinical guidelines. For consumers of healthcare delivery (that means everyone), I think it is valuable to know that doctors get their information from guidelines, and about half of the people developing those guidelines have financially-based conflicts of interest (e.g. they get money from pharmaceutical companies). The fact that this is not a surprise is probably the most worrying issue.

This is the second time that we’ve heard that journals have become “an extension of the marketing arm of pharmaceutical companies”.

Unfortunately, the double-edged sword is that many talented people do excellent work, and get money from pharmaceutical companies. Removing financial conflicts of interest would remove their talent from the construction of evidence and guidelines. 

French guidelines are withdrawn after court finds potential bias among authors

[Lenzer 342 — bmj.com] Formindep “promotes independent medical education and information” found that the working groups involved with the guidelines for Alzheimer’s disease had major financial conflicts of interest and some members failed to disclose their financial interests.

It’s fine to demand disclosure of financial interests, but what would they do with the guidelines if they were disclosed? Leave them in the public domain? And what happens if/when the clinical trials underpinning the guidelines were mostly (or wholly) funded by the pharmaceutical industry that seeks to profit from the over-use of prescription drugs?

French guidelines are withdrawn after court finds potential bias among authors