Many of the medical journals read most by hospitalists, including the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association, are adopting a new set of guidelines for the disclosure of potential conflicts of interest, a move the journals and researchers say is a step toward further transparency of authors' competing loyalties.
"From the perspective of an investigator and an end-user of the scientific literature, this is a positive development," says Andrew Masica, MD, MSCI, FHM, director of clinical effectiveness at Baylor Health Care System in Waco, Texas. "In many cases, a work's biggest impact is at the time of its initial release. It is important to provide full information on potential conflicts of interest at this early stage, rather than having something disclosed further down the road."
The new reporting guidelines were introduced in the fall by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors and are being phased in at member journals. Authors will be asked to disclose four types of information, according to an NEJM editorial:1
- Financial associations tied to the study they worked on;
- Financial ties that could have an "interest in the general area of the submitted manuscript;"
- Similar financial associations involving spouses and children under 18 years of age; and
- Relevant nonfinancial associations.
The new rules "align well with the overall trend towards transparency in healthcare," says Dr. Masica, who published this year in the Journal of Hospital Medicine. "Safety and quality data at both the hospital and practitioner level are increasingly available to the public; consistency with disclosure helps move research toward that same standard."
To that end, JHM is updating its peer-review submission Web site to incorporate the new changes and expects to make an announcement on its progress in April. "Transparency is good for healthcare delivery and establishing trust with our primary focus—the care of hospitalized patients," says Mark V. Williams, MD, FACP, FHM, JHM editor-in-chief.
1. Glickman SW, McHutchison JG, Peterson ED, et al. Ethical and scientific implications of the globalization of clinical research. N Engl J Med. 2009;360(8):816-823.