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Conflict of Interest Still a Problem in Medical Studies

July 27, 2007 | 2,376 views
It’s well-known that studies funded by industry or conducted by researchers with industry ties tend to favor corporate interests. It seems only fair that disclosing these conflicts of interest would be the only way to allow readers to judge a study’s true credibility.

Yet, studies published in medical journals, even those with sterling reputations, are still suspect. Case in point, The Associated Press uncovered that three authors of a study on padded hip protectors, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), had received research money from makers of bone-strengthening drugs.

Although JAMA has strict rules about financial disclosure, they maintained that the authors had done nothing wrong in not disclosing the ties because the study did not mention bone drugs, nor recommend them.

Consumer groups, along with the president of the World Association of Medical Editors, disagreed. They pointed out that readers could easily conclude, “If hip protectors don’t work, I had better take the bone drugs.” As you might suspect, the study did, indeed, find that hip protectors don’t prevent fractures.

This is just more evidence that you must always take what you hear or read with a grain of salt, even if it’s published in a medical journal. Only assume something is true if you’ve checked out the source (in the case of studies, this would be the authors, the funding, the journal, and so on). Of course, make sure it meshes with your own common sense, experience, and intuition.

And, to be truly impartial, you must take into account your own bias as well.

USA Today July 24, 2007

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