When a country is holding up the United States as a model of progress on medical conflict of interest issues, you might suspect there are some serious systemic issues there. Such seems to be the case in Australia, based on Melissa Sweet’s recent post on the Croakey blog. At present, there’s little baseline research into industry funding and influence in Australia, though what little there is seems to indicate a situation similar to what we’ve found in the United States. The lack of research seems to stem from a lack of awareness and perhaps even indifference.
The catalyst for this post seems to be the Walkey Media Conference, a media industry confab sponsored by the national journalists’ union that generated a bit of controversy thanks to a sponsorship from Exxon Mobil.
Sweet found a University of Sydney seminar in July that was to look at conflicts of interest to be less than packed, and inferred that Aussie “academics seem to regard (COI) as irrelevant, tedious or confronting.” Furthermore, she wrote, “Australian universities are dragging the chain in dealing with their staff’s conflicts of interest, at least compared with institutions in the US.”
The post makes a strong, well-researched case for COI disclosure and serves as a sort of roundabout compliment to the dogged American journalists (we’re looking at you, John Fauber) who are creating mainstream awareness of conflicts of interest.