A biting commentary on just who is writing treatment guidelines for diabetes and cardiovascular disease was published in the British Medical Journal, summarized in theHeart.org’s HeartWire here.
“About half the experts serving on the committees that wrote national clinical guidelines for diabetes and hyperlipidemia over the past decade had potential financial conflicts of interest (COI), and about 4% had conflicts that were not disclosed.
“Five of the guidelines did not include a declaration of the panel members’ conflicts of interest, but 138 of the 288 panel members (48%) reported conflicts of interest at the time of the publication of the guideline. Eight reported more than one conflict. Of those who declared conflicts, 93% reported receiving honoraria, speaker’s fees, and/or other kinds of payments or stock ownership from drug manufacturers with an interest in diabetes or hyperlipidemia, and 7% reported receiving only research funding. Six panelists who declared conflicts were chairs of their committee.
“Of the 73 panelists who had a chance to declare a conflict of interest but declared none, eight had undeclared COI that the researchers identified by searching other sources. Among the 77 panel members who did not have an opportunity to publicly declare COI in the guidelines documents, four were found to have COI.”
The closing quote by Dr. Edwin Gale of the UK is priceless:
“Legislation will not change the situation, for the smart money is always one step ahead. What is needed is a change of culture in which serving two masters becomes as socially unacceptable as smoking a cigarette. Until then, the drug industry will continue to model its behavior on that of its consumers, and we will continue to get the drug industry we deserve.”
It’s like having Kellogg’s tell us what to each for breakfast, or Toyota telling us what car to drive. The sway of the drug industry is huge. Even to this day, I observe colleagues kowtow to the sexy sales rep hawking her wares. But that’s the least of it. Far worse, even the “experts” who we had trusted to have objectively reviewed the evidence to help the practitioner on Main Street appears to be little more than a hired lackey for Big Pharma, hoping for that extra few hundred thousand dollars.
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