Systematic review of guides that address conflicts of interest in biomedical research

Session: 

Oral session: Investigating bias (2)

Date: 

Tuesday 22 October 2019 - 14:00 to 15:30

Location: 

All authors in correct order:

Lundh A1, Rasmussen K2, Østengaard L3, Boutron I4, Stewart L5, Hróbjartsson A6
1 Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine Odense (CEBMO) and Open Patient data Exploratory Network (OPEN), Odense University Hospital, Department of Clinical Research, University of Southern Denmark, Department of Infectious Diseases, Hvidovre Hospital, Denmark
2 The Nordic Cochrane Centre, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark
3 Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine Odense (CEBMO) and Open Patient data Exploratory Network (OPEN), Odense University Hospital; Department of Clinical Research and University Library of Southern Denmark, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark
4 Equipe METHODS, Centre de Recherche Épidémiologie et Statistique Sorbonne Paris Cité (CRESS-UMR1153) Inserm, Université Paris Descartes, Cochrane France, Paris, France
5 Centre for Reviews and Dissemination, University of York, UK
6 Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine Odense (CEBMO) and Open Patient data Exploratory Network (OPEN), Odense University Hospital; Department of Clinical Research, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark
Presenting author and contact person

Presenting author:

Andreas Lundh

Contact person:

Abstract text
Background: conflicts of interest may influence how research is conducted and interpreted and are regarded as a substantial threat to the reliability of biomedical research. However, critical appraisal tools and biomedical journals may address and manage conflicts of interest quite variably.

Objectives: to identify and summarize guides that address conflicts of interest in biomedical research studies and journals with policies on managing conflicts of interest in journal papers.

Methods: we conducted a systematic review based on a protocol. We searched MEDLINE, Embase and the Cochrane Methodology register (up to 1 November 2017) and additional sources for guides that address conflicts of interest. We also searched the websites of 30 biomedical journals (Journal Citation Report’s top 10 general medical journals and top 20 specialty journals) for conflicts of interest managing policies. Two review authors independently included guides and journals, and one review author extracted data with verification by a second review author.

Results: we included 35 guides addressing conflicts of interest in research studies and 14 journals with conflicts of interest managing policies (12 from the 30 top journals and two from searching other sources). Of the 35 guides, 27 were critical appraisal tools containing one to two items on conflicts of interest, three guidance papers providing readers with advice on how to incorporate conflicts of interest information when reading a research study, and five guides with specific recommendations for addressing conflicts of interest in the context of conducting systematic reviews. Twenty-three of the 27 critical appraisal tools addressed study funding source and 19 study authors’ conflicts of interest. Nine tools addressed availability of conflicts of interest information, 13 presence of conflicts of interest and five influence from conflicts of interest. Of 14 included journals, one restricted non-research papers (e.g. editorials) to authors without any financial conflicts of interest and 10 only under certain circumstances. Only one journal addressed non-financial conflicts of interest.

Conclusions: conflicts of interest were addressed in a considerable number of critical appraisal tools, but the majority focused only on whether funding information was available or whether a study was commercially funded. Almost half of top journals had policies for managing conflicts of interest and the majority of these policies contained some form of restriction of financial conflicts of interest by authors of non-research papers, but not on research papers.

Patient or healthcare consumer involvement: none