Medical Guidelines Often Written by MDs with Drug Company Ties
Almost nine out of 10 doctors who wrote clinical practice guidelines used by other physicians had "financial relationships" with drug companies at the time, according to a study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Chicago Tribune reports (Gorner, Chicago Tribune, 2/6). Researchers at the University of Toronto sent surveys to 192 doctors who wrote clinical guidelines published between 1991 and 1999 in the journals of North American and European medical societies. The guidelines included treatments for asthma and chronic obstructive lung disease, cardiovascular disease, heart failure, depression, diabetes, peptic ulcers, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis and pneumonia (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 2/5). Of 100 doctors who responded, more than half received research funding from pharmaceutical companies, 59% wrote guidelines that considered drugs made by companies with which they had relationships and 38% worked as employees or consultants for pharmaceutical firms. The doctors said they had relationships with an average of 10.5 drug companies each (Chicago Tribune, 2/6). In addition, doctors' connections with drug companies were "almost never disclosed" in the journal that published the recommendations, the study says. Of 44 published guidelines the study reviewed, only one reported a potential conflict of interest (Stolberg, New York Times, 2/6). Dr. Allan Detsky, the study's lead author, said, "We're not saying there is anything wrong with the guidelines. ... But we think our paper highlights the need for appropriate disclosure of potential conflicts of interest for authors of [regulations] and a formal process for making sure these are disclosed and discussed beforehand" (Chicago Tribune, 2/6).