Most Doctors Who Set Guidelines Have Industry Ties

  1. Most Doctors Who Set Guidelines Have Industry Ties (2/20/2002 8:51:00 AM)

    The vast majority of doctors involved in establishing national guidelines on disease treatment have financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry that could potentially sway their recommendations and inappropriately influence thousands of other physicians.

    Eighty-seven percent of guideline authors had some type of relationship with drug companies, yet these often were not disclosed, according to survey responses from 100 authors of guidelines published from 1991 to 1999 for common diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma.

    More specifically, 38% of respondents said they had served as employees or consultants for pharmaceutical companies and 58% had received financial support for medical research. In addition, 59% had links with drug companies whose medications were considered in the particular guidelines they authored.

    The findings show that people who work on committees who write practice guidelines have lots of financial relationships with companies whose products they're assessing.

    And these figures may underestimate the problem, the researchers said, because only 52% of the authors contacted for the survey responded.

    Some may have declined to participate because they did not want to disclose their industry relationships, the report indicates. Though the investigators did not name names, the survey did not explicitly guarantee anonymity.

    While industry ties don't necessarily mean that a doctor can't provide an objective opinion, it's a potential problem.

    In the study, the researchers did not actually search for concrete examples in which industry ties translated into improper treatment recommendations. But, when respondents were asked whether relationships with drug companies influenced guideline recommendations, 19% said they thought their co-authors' recommendations were swayed by their relationships and 7% said they thought their own relationships influenced recommendations.

    Industry relationships are often an essential part of doing business for doctors. Many of the nation's top medical researchers at prestigious academic institutions -- the same ones sought for guideline authorship -- have industry relationships because it is the pharmaceutical companies who finance most of the nation's drug research.

    So, how much industry involvement should disqualify a doctor from participation in clinical guidelines? That's the $64,000 question. Any cut point would be considered arbitrary with the possible exception of zero involvement.

    The researchers specifically recommended the disqualification of authors who own equity in a company whose products are being reviewed in the guidelines.

    Beyond that, each medical group that sets guidelines should devise their own ways for identifying and dealing with potential conflicts of interest within their specialty -- ways they can preclude these conflicts from harming the consumer.

    Source: JAMA February 6, 2002;287:612-617

    Talk about conflict of interest.

    87% of those on the committee that makes the national guidelines have ties to the drug companies. Does that percent seem high?

    Well, the author thinks it is seriously underestimated as nearly half of the physicians being studied never answered the survey.

    Folks, the percentage could be in the high 90s.

    The drug companies are behind this plot. How can you trust traditional medical recommendations when most of them are influenced by companies that are far more interested in their profits than your health?
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