Editorials

Making progress with competing interests

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.325.7377.1375 (Published 14 December 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:1375

Still some way to go

  1. Richard Smith, editor
  1. BMJ

Papers p 1391

The BMJ and other journals are making progress with managing the problem of competing interests (or conflicts of interest, as most journals call them). Today we take two further steps forward by posting on our website the competing interests of editors, our editorial board, and our group executive (http://bmj.com/aboutsite/competing_interests.shtml) and by publishing a study we have conducted that shows that readers' reactions to research are strongly influenced by statements of competing interests.1 We still, however, have some way to go to the fully transparent world that is desirable.

The history of medical journals and conflict of interest might be cruelly summarised as lots of rhetoric and not much action. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors produced a policy on conflicts of interest as long ago as 1993,2 but several studies have shown that such conflicts are rarely declared in most journals—despite good evidence that most authors have them.37 The international committee strengthened its policy in 2001 by stating that journals should declare the exact role of sponsors (often pharmaceutical companies) in studies and decline to publish studies where the sponsors controlled the decision on publication. 8 9 This policy too has yet to be widely implemented.7

At the BMJ all authors and reviewers of original articles, editorials, and most other material are asked to complete competing interests forms, and declarations of …

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