- LONDON, July 31 (Reuters) - The results of medical studies are likely
to be tainted or flawed if they are funded by industry and researchers
have a conflict of interest, experts said on Friday.
- ``Almost all funding comes with strings
attached,'' Hurst Hannum, a professor at Tufts University in Massachusetts,
said in report in the British Medical Journal (BMJ). ``At a minimum, the
recipient must be accountable for how grants are spent. At a maximum, the
recipient must deliver a particular product that is acceptable to the donor.''
In a series of articles in the weekly journal doctors, professors and industry
representatives debated the ethical dilemma of companies -- particular
tobacco, alcohol and infant formula manufacturers -- financing research.
Tom Sorell of the University of Essex in England argued that research funded
by the tobacco industry has a tainted history and needed to be closely
- ``Payments to some tobacco researchers
have come from secret funds or front organisations with misleading names.
Much worse, the industry has suppressed findings of its own researchers
that bear out what its opponents have claimed,'' he said. Richard Smith,
the editor of the journal, cited two important studies published in American
journals that showed authors were more likely to be supportive of a drug
or product if they had financial backing from the company. In a review
of 70 medical articles about a type of drug to treat cardiovascular disease,
published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the authors discovered
that two-thirds of the authors had industry backing.
- ``Almost all supportive authors (96 percent)
had financial relationships with manufacturers, compared with 60 percent
neutral authors and 37 percent of critical authors,'' he said in an editorial.
- A second study in the Journal of the
American Medical Association (JAMA) of 106 reviews on passive smoking found
similar results. Three quarters of the articles that found passive smoking
was not harmful were written by tobacco industry affiliates.
- ``These two papers and their predecessors
begin to build a solid case that conflict of interest has an impact on
the conclusions reached by papers in medical journals,'' he added. Smith
said from now on the authors of papers, editorials and reviews of articles
in the magazine will be asked if they have ``competing interests'' which
will relate to purely financial matters.
- If they have none the magazine will tell
readers at the end of each article or if it is found that authors had competing
interest readers will be informed.