Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Editor's Choice

Turning the tide on conflicts of interest

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 10 August 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d5147

Rapid Response:

Introduction of bias by banning editorials and clinical reviews from authors with industry ties?

The BMJ should not ban editorials and clinical reviews from authors
with ties to industry. The major selection criterion for industry to
liaise with academic researchers is their extra-ordinary knowledge on
specific topics. The mere fact that an author has a tie with industry is
therefore in many cases a benchmark of quality. Many readers might feel
more confident about the assessment of a new drug in a clinical review
article if the author, as a result of ties with industry, actually has
direct experience with it, e.g. as investigator in preregistration
clinical trials or as advisor on its clinical development.

By only allowing authors without such ties, the question arises
whether this in itself does not constitute bias. With so many excellent
researchers having paid relations with industry, so-called independent
researchers may in fact be less knowledgeable. Their own chosen
independence may also be based on preconceived negative feelings on the
industry, leading to an overall pessimistic appraisal of their products.

Furthermore, collaboration between industry and academia is of
paramount importance for the development of new drugs and should therefore
be stimulated. By banning such academic workers from contributing to
review papers or editorials this co-operation will be endangered.

Authors with industry ties might be too optimistic and independent
researchers too pessimistic about the value of new drugs. The truth will
most likely lie somewhere in between. To systemically exclude one of these
approaches is too drastic. The best a medical journal can do is to base
its judgment purely on the content and to make sure financial ties are
declared. Finally, it is up to the readers to make up their mind on the
real value of these papers.

Competing interests: HJO is an employee from MSD next to his professorship at the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre

12 August 2011
Marlies van Lent
PhD student
Henk J. Out
Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, The Netherlands