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Are Guidelines Tainted by Conflict of Interest?

Treatment guidelines for cardiologists may be flawed by conflicts of interest. Doctors look to these guidelines for advice on the best ways to help patients, but a new study shows that more than half of the prominent doctors on the panels that write the guidelines had financial links to companies that make drugs or medical devices. In the study, researchers reviewed the ties of nearly 500 experts serving on 17 panels from 2003 to 2008. The individuals who chaired the groups were even more likely to have conflicts: 4 out 5 had some financial interest in the affected companies.
The lead author, Dr. James Kirkpatrick, points to the 44 percent of experts without financial conflicts as evidence that such experts do exist and should be recruited to develop practice guidelines. In a related commentary, Dr. Steve Nissen advised that doctors with conflicts of interest should be excluded from the expert panels, rather than merely required to disclose their associations.

[Archives of Internal Medicine, March 28, 2011]

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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