Some Medical Journal Study Authors Not Reporting Industry Financial Ties, Study Finds
Some prominent medical journals are failing to disclose contributing authors' financial conflicts of interest in violation of their own rules mandating such disclosures, according to a study released Monday by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, USA Today reports (Davis, USA Today, 7/13). Researchers analyzed 163 articles published between December 2003 and February 2004 in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, Environmental Health Perspectives and Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology. The authors of those articles had not disclosed to journal editors any conflicts of interest. Journals' policies on reporting conflicts of interest vary, but most require contributing authors to disclose financial ties to individuals or groups that could benefit from or be affected by their research. Researchers examined various databases for authors' consulting agreements or other financial relationships that could "raise questions," the Wall Street Journal reports (Tomsho, Wall Street Journal, 7/13).
While the "most obvious conflicts were reported," 13 articles had "relevant" conflicts of interest that were not reported to readers, the study found, according to USA Today. Such "hidden" conflicts of interest involved indirect links between authors and parties in the industry who stood to benefit from the research, USA Today reports. JAMA had the highest incidence of unreported conflicts of interest -- 11% -- with most cases resulting from authors not disclosing their possible conflicts to journal editors. CSPI recommends requiring authors to disclose all financial agreements made with firms and patenting efforts developed during the past three years and imposing sanctions on authors who fail to meet the requirements, such as a three-year ban from publishing in the journal.
Merrill Goozner, CSPI project director, said, "There is a consistent pattern here. This is an unacceptable level and the journals need to take action." Goozner added, "These journals were picked because they have the best policies. Imagine what is happening at the lesser journals" (USA Today, 7/13). "We really rely upon scrutiny of these disclosure statements by other scientists and outside organizations," EHP editor in chief Tom Goehl said. Goehl added that his editorial board would consider adopting CSPI's recommendation to impose sanctions on authors who violate the journal's conflict-of-interest policies. But Gregory Curfman, executive editor of NEJM, said the study is "underwhelming," and his journal already "spend[s] a lot of time" on the matter (Wall Street Journal, 7/13). JAMA executive deputy editor Phil Fontanarosa said the study "will help keep the issue on the front burner," adding, "We all want the same thing, which is transparency of reporting of conflicts of interest" (USA Today, 7/13). The study is available online. Note: You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the report.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.