Keeping Science Clean

Patients say medical researchers should declare conflicts of interest

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TUESDAY, Feb. 10, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Full disclosure of researchers' financial conflicts of interest is essential for informed consent, a large survey of potential clinical research trial participants finds.

A report on the survey appears in the current issue of the Journal of Medical Ethics.

Knowing about researchers' competing interests was regarded as "extremely" or "very" important by most of the 5,500 people who took part in the Web-based survey.

All the respondents had either heart disease, breast cancer or depression and were registered with the U.S. Harris Interactive Chronic Illness Database, which contains the names of people who have agreed to take part in clinical research trials.

About 64 percent of the respondents rated knowing about a researcher's competing interest as either extremely or very important and 87 percent said they believed disclosure should be part of informed consent.

Most of the respondents said they would still be willing to participate in clinical trials, no matter what the degree of a researcher's competing interest. Nearly half of them said they would be more inclined to take part in a clinical trial if they knew the product being studied was made by the research sponsor.

However, a sizeable minority of the survey respondents said they would not take part in a clinical trial if a researcher had a large amount of stocks and shares in the company sponsoring the trial, or if the researcher earned personal income from the commercial sponsor.

The study authors suggest patients want to be able to assess a company's reputation before agreeing to take part in research.

The idea that clinical researchers should declare their competing interests, such as whether they or their institution are being sponsored by a drug company to do the research, is a contentious issue.

"Given these findings, it is difficult to defend the practice of non-disclosure.... It is not too late to make the financial aspects of clinical research more transparent to all," the authors write.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about clinical trials.

SOURCE: Journal of Medical Ethics, news release, Feb. 10, 2004

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