More MS news articles for June 2002

The New England Journal of Medicine Loosens Conflict-of-Interest Rules

Jun 13, 2002
NEW YORK (Reuters Health

In this week's issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, the editors announced a change in journal policy that will allow experts to comment on the effectiveness of a drug or device, even when they have a financial tie to the maker of the product under review.

According to Journal Editor-in-Chief Dr. Jeffrey M. Drazen and Executive Editor Dr. Gregory D. Curfman, the new rules do not apply to original articles. In those cases, the journal discloses the study's funding and the financial interests of the researchers, and that won't change.

But they are changing rules applying to authors of review articles and editorials.

Drs. Drazen and Curfman believe previous rules barring experts with any financial ties to private companies linked to drugs reviewed in journal articles were too restrictive. "For example, in the past two years we have been able to solicit and publish only one Drug Therapy article on a novel form of treatment," they write, adding that while the avoidance of conflict of interest is important, "our silence does not serve our readers."

The NEJM editorial board "concluded that our ability to provide comprehensive, up-to-date information, especially on recent advances in therapeutics, has been constrained" by a policy which stated that the authors of review articles and editorials "will not have any financial interest in a company (or its competitor) that makes a product discussed in the article."

The policy has now been changed to read that the authors of these types of articles will not have any "significant" monetary ties to private companies that might stand to gain from a review article in the Journal.

"The addition of the word 'significant' acknowledges that not all financial associations are the same," Drs. Drazen and Curfman write. For example, experts who simply have invested in a mutual fund that might include a drug company linked to the product under review will now be allowed to write a review article on that drug for the Journal.

And the editors base their definition of "significant financial interest" on guidelines issued by the US National Institutes of Health and the Association of American Medical Colleges, which set the amount at $10,000 in any given year.

Experts who stand to gain larger sums--either through stock, stock options or patents--will still be barred from writing review articles for the journal. Also barred are researchers who get a major portion of their funding from companies that stand to profit.

"We regard these revisions as guidelines, not rigid rules," the editors add, stressing that authors for review articles will be selected on a case-by-case basis. But a loosening selection criteria will help "bring the best scientific and medical information to the Journal."

N Engl J Med 2002;346:1901-1902.

 © 2002 Reuters Ltd