Intended for healthcare professionals


Conflicts of interest in guideline panel members

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 11 October 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d5728
  1. Edwin A M Gale, emeritus professor of diabetic medicine
  1. 1Diabetes and Metabolism, Learning and Research, Southmead Hospital, Bristol BS10 5NB, UK
  1. edwin.gale{at}

A change in the culture of medicine is needed; legislation is not enough

It has been said that “it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it,”1 and the medical profession has been slow to understand the importance of conflicts of interest. The linked study by Neuman and colleagues (doi:10.1136/bmj.d5621) reports the prevalence of financial conflicts among guideline panel members in the United States and Canada. Of the 14 guidelines considered, six came from government sponsored organisations, six from specialist or professional organisations, and two from private non-profit organisations; three were from Canada and the remainder from the US. Five (four government sponsored) guidelines provided no conflict of interest statement, but their participants had presumably been screened, because only four of 77 panellists seemed to have a conflict. Six of 12 named chairpersons had a conflict, as did 138 of the 211 panellists who provided a disclosure statement; 12 more failed to disclose an interest, and 10 others received research funding from industry. Only 61 (29%) had no potential financial ties.2

The guidelines in question related to the management of diabetes and hyperlipidaemia, …

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