British Thoracic Society corrects damaging impressionBMJ 2003; 326 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.326.7400.1211-c (Published 29 May 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:1211
EDITOR—Seaton's personal view, “There's none so blind as the double blind”. Discuss, is customarily amusing and challenging.1 It is regrettable, therefore, that his references to the British Thoracic Society and pharmaceutical industry “sponsorship” of its guidelines are incorrect and present a picture that is both misleading and damaging.
The society does not receive funding for the preparation of its guidelines, accepting funding only for printing and distribution costs.
BTS policy on guidelines
Chairmen of guidelines committees should not have shares in a pharmaceutical company or be retained as a consultant with a company. Before appointment their current and recent (three years) involvement with commercial organisations will be reviewed by the chairman and three other members of the Executive Committee to ensure that there are no grounds to expect that they are likely to favour a particular product or company.
All members of guidelines committee should declare all commercial interests and remuneration from the biomedical industry when approached to be on the committee and when the guidelines are finalised. These should be available on the table for committee meetings and should be published at the back of the guidelines in the format adopted by the BMJ (ie, the type of interest but not the amount). Interests should include shares and consultancies, commercial sponsorship for the member and for the people for whom they are responsible—eg, research fellows, and support for research within their department. In the case of uncertainty the interest should be declared.
Members of any BTS committee who have shares or a general consultancy agreement with a biomedical company should not normally take part in discussions about any product from that company, or a main competitor, and should leave the room when such discussions occur. Members receiving a consultancy retainer for a specific product should leave the room when that product or a direct competitor is being discussed
The biomedical industry should not in any way finance or be involved in any aspect of developing guidelines, ie in collecting, reviewing or accessing the literature or determining the content of guidelines.
When guidelines are in a near final form they are often discussed at an open meeting with a wider professional group. Biomedical company support for such a meeting would be acceptable, though the chairman should confirm at the start of the meeting that anyone working for a pharmaceutical company or with a potential conflict of interest should declare this if they speak from the floor. The same principles apply if a near final version is placed on the web. Members with an interest in the pharmaceutical industry should declare that interest when they return their comments.
Once guidelines have been produced the biomedical industry can be involved in their dissemination and audit, including support for publications. It would be advisable for this to involve several companies.
Professor Seaton was one of the prime movers in producing the society's policy document about relationships with the biomedical industry (which is available on the society's website, http://www.brit-thoracic.org.uk/) and its annual declarations of interest scheme, to which he also refers in his article. The policy is reviewed annually by the society's professional standards committee and discussed by the society's trustees and council (box).
We feel strongly that the society is in the forefront of the movement to be transparent in its dealings with industry, and we wish to correct any erroneous impressions made by Professor Seaton's article.
Competing interests EN is chairman of the British Thoracic Society's Executive Committee.