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Editorials Commercial Influence in Health: From Transparency to Independence

Commercial influence and covid-19

BMJ 2020; 369 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m2456 (Published 24 June 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;369:m2456

Commercial influence in health: from transparency to independence

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  1. Ray Moynihan, assistant professor1,
  2. Helen Macdonald, UK research editor2,
  3. Lisa Bero, professor3,
  4. Fiona Godlee, editor in chief2
  1. 1Institute for Evidence Based Healthcare, Bond University, Gold Coast, Australia
  2. 2The BMJ, London, UK
  3. 3Charles Perkins Centre, School of Pharmacy, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to: R Moynihan rmoyniha{at}bond.edu.au

Greater independence from commercial interests is more important than ever

Although the covid-19 pandemic has provoked the best of human compassion, the hallmarks of unhealthy commercial influence have also emerged. This week, The BMJ published the initial list of signatories to our call for action to reduce commercial influence in how healthcare evidence is produced and used (www.bmj.com/commercial-influence-call-to-action). Signatories include professors, patient advocates, clinicians, and researchers who want to see product evaluation, medical education, and clinical practice much freer from commercial interests.1

Previous BMJ investigations have highlighted systemic weaknesses in the regulation of drugs, devices, and tests,2 and the experience with covid-19 may prove another powerful example of this problem. Statistician John Deeks, who is studying the evidence underpinning covid-19 tests, has expressed serious concerns that current regulatory mechanisms for tests are vulnerable to commercial influence.34 For example, the UK government used “commercial confidentiality” to justify concealing the names of nine covid-19 antibody tests that had been found to be insufficiently accurate.3 Manufacturers of antibody tests are not allowed to make false claims, but tests do not need to work well to be approved in Europe; nor is independent evaluation required.4 Regulation in …

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