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Reporting of Conflicts of Interest in Meta-analyses of Trials of Pharmacological Treatments

Michelle Roseman, BA; Katherine Milette, BSc; Lisa A. Bero, PhD; James C. Coyne, PhD; Joel Lexchin, MD; Erick H. Turner, MD; Brett D. Thombs, PhD
JAMA. 2011;305(10):1008-1017. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.257.
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Context Disclosure of conflicts of interest (COIs) from pharmaceutical industry study funding and author-industry financial relationships is sometimes recommended for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) published in biomedical journals. Authors of meta-analyses, however, are not required to report COIs disclosed in original reports of included RCTs.

Objective To investigate whether meta-analyses of pharmacological treatments published in high-impact biomedical journals report COIs disclosed in included RCTs.

Data Sources and Study Selection We selected the 3 most recent meta-analyses of patented pharmacological treatments published January 2009 through October 2009 in each general medicine journal with an impact factor of at least 10; in high-impact journals in each of the 5 specialty medicine areas with the greatest 2008 global therapeutic sales (oncology, cardiology, respiratory medicine, endocrinology, and gastroenterology); and in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

Data Extraction Two investigators independently extracted data on disclosed study funding, author-industry financial ties, and author employment from each meta-analysis, from RCTs included in each meta-analysis, and on whether meta-analyses reported disclosed COIs of included RCTs.

Results Of 29 meta-analyses reviewed, which included 509 RCTs, only 2 meta-analyses (7%) reported RCT funding sources; and 0 reported RCT author-industry ties or employment by the pharmaceutical industry. Of 318 meta-analyzed RCTs that reported funding sources, 219 (69%) were industry funded; and 91 of 132 (69%) that reported author financial disclosures had 1 or more authors with pharmaceutical industry financial ties. In 7 of the 29 meta-analyses reviewed, 100% of included RCTs had at least 1 form of disclosed COI (pharmaceutical industry funding, author-industry financial ties, or employment), yet only 1 of these 7 meta-analyses reported RCT funding sources, and 0 reported RCT author-industry ties or employment.

Conclusion Among a group of meta-analyses of pharmacological treatments published in high-impact biomedical journals, information concerning primary study funding and author COIs for the included RCTs were only rarely reported.

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