UCLA researchers report that although the majority of medical journals have conflict of interest policies in place for study authors, less than half require such policies for editors or peer-reviewers. In addition, many journals do not inform readers about those potential conflicts that have been disclosed to them.
The study, published in the December issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine, is one of the largest studies of its kind, and evaluated conflict of interest policies and practices for a wide range of major biomedical journals, including general and specialty publications.
Conflict of interest occurs, for example, when an author reporting on a new drug also has ties to the pharmaceutical company that manufactures the drug. Media attention and public scrutiny about conflict of interest in biomedical research has increased, and journals have stressed the importance of such disclosures.
"While it is healthy that doctors, patients and journals are paying more attention to conflict of interest, it is not meaningful if the disclosures are not made public, or if the disclosure policies do not pertain to those individuals who decide what gets published," said Dr. Jerome Hoffman, study author and professor of emergency medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
Study researchers queried editors of 135 peer-reviewed biomedical journals on specific conflict of interest policies; restrictions based on conflict of interest and the public availability of these disclosures.
Of the 91 journals that responded to the survey, 85 journals or 93 percent reported having a conflict of interest policy for authors. While 77 percent reported collecting conflict of interest on all author submissions, only 57 percent published all author disclosures.
"We found it striking how many author disclosures were not made public in these prominent journals," said Dr. Richelle Cooper, study author and a
Contact: Rachel Champeau
University of California - Los Angeles