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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Cochrane and conflict of interest

Cochrane Community
David Tovey is the Editor in Chief of the Cochrane Library, and has been working with the Cochrane Editorial Unit (CEU) and the wider Cochrane collaboration in this role since 2009. In this post, he discusses Cochrane's conflict of interest policy and recent calls for re-assessment of its application in the conduct of Cochrane Reviews.
I didn’t know Bill Silverman, so I can’t judge whether he would be “a-mouldering in his grave”. However, I recognise that James Coyne has set down a challenge to Cochrane to explain its approach to commercial and academic conflicts of interest and also to respond to criticisms made in relation to the appraisal of the much debated PACE study.

Cochrane is still fairly unusual within the journal world in that it specifies that in some cases declaration of interests is necessary but insufficient, and that there are individuals or groups of researchers who are not permitted to proceed with a given systematic review. This has been true since 2004, when Cochrane’s Steering Group ratified a commercial sponsorship policy that described circumstances where authorship as proposed within a review could not go ahead. At the time, Cochrane also introduced the post of Funding Arbiter, reporting directly to its Steering Group, to ensure that the policy was followed, and to rule on ambiguous or disputed cases. As Professor Lisa Bero says “The Cochrane policy is strict because, first, there are no journals that prohibit publication of systematic reviews funded by a company with a financial interest in the outcome of the review. Second, to my knowledge, there are no journals that require the majority of authors to be without personal conflicts of interest, prohibit the first author from having a conflict of interest, or prohibit company employees with a conflict of interest from being an author. For example, the BMJ conflict of interest policy states, ‘We are not aiming to eradicate such interests; they are almost inevitable’ and authors with conflicts of interest are not prohibited from being authors of BMJ original research, systematic reviews or meta-analysis articles. The BMJ does prohibit authors with COI from being authors of: Editorials and education articles (clinical reviews, practice articles, state of the art reviews, Minerva pictures, and Endgames), but these are different from systematic reviews.”...


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