30 May 2022 How do you respond to conflicts of interest?
In Therapeutics Letter 136, just published last week, we ask a question some might find provocative: “How do YOU respond to Conflicts of Interest?” In professional education sessions, we might all be accustomed to the standard speaker’s Conflict of Interest declaration slide appearing at the start of a presentation, but we may be less aware of the many ways that commercial influences shape what health professionals learn about “evidence.” That’s the subject of this Therapeutics Letter.
Since how a trial is designed has the potential to exaggerate apparent beneficial effects, underestimate harms, and even disguise results that are unfavourable to the drug, as prescribers we need to be aware of how trials could be biased.
We note that commercial forces can influence the nature of the hypothesis tested, the selection of comparator treatments, the definitions of outcomes, the results that are ultimately reported (or not), and the packaging of “takeaway” messages to prescribers.
This Therapeutics Letter will introduce you to KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders), the evidence around sponsorship bias and how professional bodies define Conflicts of Interest. For those who wish a deeper dive into the topic, Dr. Jeannette Goguen, a professor of endocrinology and an award-winning educator from the University of Toronto delivered a stellar presentation about how she teaches about Conflicts of Interest.
At the end of the day, we might all feel that we’re too smart to be influenced but that doesn’t mean we should let down our guard. Our letter concludes that in research reports, review articles, guidelines, or continuing professional development events, we should be aware of commercial sponsorships and be asking ourselves: “Who paid for this and why? Is bias likely? What am I not being told?”