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Guideline experts have conflicts of interest, study finds

The Wall Street Journal, October 13, 2011
Ever wonder who's behind the new recommendations for, say, how to treat high cholesterol or whether to screen men for prostate cancer? More specifically, do you ever wonder whether experts on the panels that develop guidelines have financial ties to pharma or device companies that might be affected? The Institute of Medicine recommends that ideally, guideline developers shouldn't have any financial investments in companies that stand to benefit from recommendations, nor should they (or family members) participate in marketing activities or advisory boards of those companies. Sometimes it's not possible to convene an entirely conflict-free panel, in which case members with financial ties to industry should be only a minority of the panel, the IOM says. Panel chairs or co-chairs should not have conflicts at all, and industry shouldn't have a role in developing the guidelines, the group says. Using that framework, researchers looked at 14 guidelines published by groups in the U.S. and Canada for screening or treatment of high cholesterol and diabetes. Of the 288 total panel members, 52% had conflicts of interest—138 declared, and 12 undeclared. (Some of those were undeclared because the panels were among the five that didn't require public disclosure.)

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