Bioethics journals should not publish industry-funded articles

07/06/05

Published early online by THE LANCET embargoed in North America for 6:30pm ET Wednesday July 6 2005

Industry-funded bioethics articles should not be published by journals, according to a Viewpoint published online today (Thursday July 7, 2005) by The Lancet.

As the influence of bioethics has grown, so has the willingness of bioethicists to seek out funding from the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. The results of this industry-funded work are now making their way into peer-reviewed academic journals. Some of the authors of such articles have disclosed their industry ties, but readers are left to wonder if an industry-funded bioethicist is a bioethicist that they can trust.

Carl Elliott (University of Minnesota, USA) argues that full disclosure is unlikely to solve the problem of conflict of interest. Most bioethics journals do not even ask authors to disclose their funding sources. Nor have disclosure policies eliminated the problem of bias. It has been seen that clinicians who accept gifts and honoraria from industry are more likely to prescribe drugs from that particular industry, even when they do not themselves believe they have been influenced.

Dr Elliott states: "Disclosure policies raise a red flag and should be retained, but they do nothing to eliminate the real problem of industry funding, which is not secrecy but influence-peddling…If bioethics scholarship is to retain any measure of independence and credibility, it will need to take much stronger measures."

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