NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Conflict Of Interest In Medical Research

November 30, 2000

Medical researchers are under growing pressure to disclose financial ties to pharmaceutical concerns, device makers and other for-profit entities. The latest warnings are contained in two studies which appear in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The journal itself disclosed in February that it had violated its own policies 19 times since 1997 by publishing drug evaluations written by physicians who had received money or support from companies that made the drugs.

At the time, the journal's editors said it was becoming increasingly difficult to find physicians without conflicts to write reviews and editorials.

  • A study by researchers in Houston found that only 7 percent of 250 medical schools and research institutions require financial disclosures in published reports.
  • Only 43 percent of 47 medical journals surveyed required the same -- and few have established procedures for managing conflicts when they do arise.
  • A study out of San Francisco, which looked at 10 large medical schools, found that while all require faculty to disclose financial interests to the institution, most don't require members of the research staff to do the same.
  • Only four require disclosure in presentations and published articles.

Some experts point out that researchers receiving support from companies doesn't mean their research will be biased, since pharmaceutical companies want the complete truth so as to avoid legal liability down the road.

Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration said the federal government would investigate ties between researchers and drug companies.

Source: Robert Tomsho, "Medical-Research Rules Need Changes on Conflicts of Interest, Studies Assert," Wall Street Journal, November 30, 2000.


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