The May 2 special issue of JAMA is one to bookmark, because its theme is integral to the work of all journalists: reporting on conflicts of interest (COI). And the best part? The whole thing is free to the public — no paywalls.
As much as covering medical research is making sense of the numbers — statistics, p values, absolute risk, the number needed to treat and the rest — it’s also about good, old-fashioned journalism when it looking at all angles of a story. Continue reading
It doesn’t take long for many journalists to end up on a slew of PR and marketing lists. Pitch emails roll in 24/7 to promote a product, announce a new study, suggest a story idea or offer up an expert to comment on the pitches or a future story.
Most of these emails end up in the trash, opened or not, but the daily influx occasionally contains a few gems. Continue reading
Previously, Covering Health has addressed two kinds of potential conflicts of interest that health journalists should watch out for: those of journal article authors and those related to sponsors of journalist trips or other training opportunities.
For freelancers, there’s yet another COI maze to navigate: ensuring that work for one client doesn’t create a conflict for another, present or future.
This sounds simple enough: Don’t cover the same research for two competitors, for example. But in today’s freelance ecosystem, avoiding these conflicts has become more complex, especially with the various types of clients freelancers might have. Continue reading
A game of inside baseball is being played between two of the most venerated medical journals, and journalists may want to be sure they have a seat near the dugout. The game centers on one of the most important aspects of reporting on medical studies: identifying and making sense of researchers’ potential financial conflicts of interest.
In nearly every medical study, usually somewhere near the end or on the bottom of the first page, the authors declare any conflicts of interest or disclosures they may have that relate to the topic of the study. For editorials and commentaries, authors include the same, though many high-impact journals do not publish review articles and similar viewpoint-based papers by authors who have real or perceived conflicts of interest. Continue reading
Emergency Medicine Australasia, an Australia-based medical journal, has declared that it will no longer accept paid advertisements from pharmaceutical companies.
The journal’s editors announced their decision in an editorial, and we learned about it from Pharmalot’s Ed Silverman. In the editorial, the editors say they’re drawing a line in the sand and all but dare other publications to join them. Here’s Silverman with the how-and-why:
The ban followed discussions with other emergency medicine specialists, who worried aloud that advertised drugs were supported by evidence that was neither “of reasonable quality, nor independent.” There were cases of “dubious and unethical” research practices by pharma, including ghostwriting. And academics may face pressure to withhold negative research, which could “inflate views of the efficacy” of heavily promoted drugs.
For more, refer to this AAP story. In this case, the acronym refers to the Australian Associated Press, not the physician group. In Australia, medical journals are one of the only places where pharmaceutical advertising is legal.
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.
(Hat tip to Gary Schwitzer)