A lack of guidelines governing how financial conflicts of interest are reported in systematic reviews of drug studies may leave doctors, patients, and policy-makers without important information necessary for properly evaluating such studies, warns an international team of investigators led by researchers from the Lady Davis Institute at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal. Their findings will appeared August 22, 2012 in the prestigious British Medical Journal (BMJ).
The team, led by Dr. Brett Thombs and Michelle Roseman, analyzed 151 systematic reviews published in the highly respected Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews and found that only 20% reported the funding source of all of the drug trials under consideration. Less than 10% reported any information on whether employees of pharmaceutical companies may have authored the reports of drug trials that were reviewed.
“No single clinical trial can answer all the important questions about the potential benefits and possible risks of any drug. Thus, decisions about what drugs doctors prescribe to patients are often made on the basis of systematic reviews that synthesize the results of a large number of trials,” explained Dr. Thombs, senior investigator at the LDI and William Dawson Scholar and Associate Professor at McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine.“There are no standards, however, that require authors of these reviews to clearly reveal financial conflicts of interests in the drug studies they evaluate.”
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August 22, 2012