From the Journals

Guideline authors inconsistently disclose conflicts

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Consider conflict-free guidelines the UK way

None of the guidelines included in either study was fully compliant with National Academy of Medicine standards, which include written disclosure, appointing committee chairs or cochairs with no conflicts of interest, and keeping committee members with conflicts to a minority of the committee membership, wrote Colette DeJong, MD, and Robert Steinbrook, MD, in an accompanying editorial. In the study by Khan et al., “Notably, 14 of the 18 panels had chairs with industry payments, and 10 had a majority of members with payments,” they wrote.

However, the federal government has so far shown no interest in supporting a fully independent entity to develop clinical practice guidelines, as occurs in the United Kingdom via the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. “Preparation of guidelines by an independent public body with assured funding and independence could be an effective approach, not only for eliminating issues related to financial conflicts of interest but also for assuring the use of rigorous methodologies and avoiding the wasteful duplication of efforts by multiple committees,” they wrote.

Financial conflicts in clinical practice guidelines persist in the United States in part because many professional societies have financial conflicts with industry, the editorialists wrote.

“Robust, objective, and unbiased clinical practice guidelines support improvements in patient care; the best interests of patients are the paramount consideration,” they emphasized (JAMA Intern Med. 2018 Oct 29. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.4974).

Dr. DeJong is affiliated with the University of California, San Francisco; Dr. Steinbrook is Editor at Large for JAMA Internal Medicine. They had no financial conflicts to disclose.



In a second research letter, half of the authors of gastroenterology guidelines received payments from industry, wrote Tyler Combs, BS, of Oklahoma State University, Tulsa, and his colleagues. Previous studies have reviewed the financial conflicts of interest in specialties including oncology, dermatology, and otolaryngology, but financial conflicts of interest among authors of gastroenterology guidelines have not been examined, the researchers said.

Mr. Combs and his colleagues identified 15 CPGs published by the American College of Gastroenterology between 2014 and 2016. They identified 83 authors, with an average of 4 authors for each guideline. Overall, 53% of the authors received industry payments, according to based on data from the 2014 to 2016 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Open Payments database (OPD).

However, OPD information was not always consistent with information published with the guidelines, the researchers noted. They found that 16 (19%) of the 83 authors both disclosed financial conflicts of interests in the CPGs and had received payments according to OPD or had disclosed no financial conflicts of interest and had received no payments according to OPD. In addition, 49 (34%) of 146 cumulative financial conflicts of interest disclosed in the CPGs and 148 relationships identified on OPD were both disclosed as financial conflicts of interest and evidenced by OPD payment records. In this review, the median total payment was $1,000, with an interquartile range from $0 to $39,938.

The study findings were limited by a relatively short 12-month time frame, the researchers noted. However, “our finding that FCOI [financial conflicts of interest] disclosure only corroborates with OPD payment records between 19% and 34% of the time also suggests that guidance from the ACG [American College of Gastroenterology] may be needed to improve FCOI disclosure efforts in future iterations of gastroenterology CPGs,” they said.

The researchers had no financial conflicts to disclose.

SOURCE: Combs T et al. JAMA Intern Med. 2018 Oct 29. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.4730. Khan R et al. JAMA Intern Med. 2018 Oct 29. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.5106.

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