Dealing with strategies used by industry to influence scientific evidence

Commercial interests, transparency, and independence: a call for submissions

Help the move towards independence from commercial interests

A decade ago the US Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued a landmark report on conflicts of interest in research, medical education, and practice.1 Highlighting benefits of collaborations between physicians, researchers, and companies to develop new products that can improve health, the report also raised substantial concerns that extensive financial ties could unduly influence professional judgments. It concluded these financial conflicts of interest could jeopardise the integrity of science, the objectivity of education, the quality of care, and public trust in medicine. The report recommended more research on conflicts of interest, improvements in transparency, and greater independence from industry.

Today we announce plans for a stream of BMJ content to revisit these concerns and ask you to join us. A key aim is to identify and respond to commercial influences on health and healthcare, to understand under what circumstances involvement with industry is truly necessary. Where it is not necessary, we want to forge a new independence from those who make and sell products, to strengthen trust in how evidence is produced and disseminated, and to drive more rational and safer use of drugs, devices, diagnoses, and data in the public interest.

Key Points

  • Problematic relationships
  • The BMJ’s response so far
  • Call for submissions

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Too Much Medicine, a Campaign by The BMJ

The threat to human health posed by overdiagnosis and the waste of resources on unnecessary care

The BMJ logo
BMJ Launched ‘its Too Much Medicine‘ Campaign in 2013 To Tackle The Harms Of Overdiagnosis And Overtreatment.

In 2002 the BMJ published a theme issue called “Too Much Medicine?” with articles on the medicalisation of birth, sex, and death, among other aspects of ordinary life. Its opening editorial wondered whether doctors could become pioneers of de-medicalisation, handing back power to patients, resisting disease mongering, and demanding fairer global distribution of effective treatments.

A decade later, as data on overuse and overdiagnosis mount the BMJ announces its Too Much Medicine campaign aiming to highlight the threat to human health posed by overdiagnosis and the waste of resources on unnecessary care.

There is growing evidence that many people are overdiagnosed and overtreated for a wide range of conditions, such as prostate and thyroid cancers, asthma, and chronic kidney disease.

Through the campaign, the journal plans to work with others to increase awareness of the benefits and harms of treatments and technologies and develop ways to wind back medical excess, safely and fairly. This editorial by Fiona Godlee, editor in chief of The BMJ and overdiagnosis researcher Ray Moynihan, senior research fellow at Bond University, Australia, explains more about the campaign:

Dr Godlee said: “Like the evidence based medicine and quality and safety movements of previous decades, combatting excess is a contemporary manifestation of a much older desire to avoid doing harm when we try to help or heal.

Making such efforts even more necessary are the growing concerns about escalating healthcare spending and the threats to health from climate change. Winding back unnecessary tests and treatments, unhelpful labels and diagnoses won’t only benefit those who directly avoid harm, it can also help us create a more sustainable future.”

The BMJ was a partner in the international scientific conference, Preventing Overdiagnosis, held in September 2013 in Hanover, New Hampshire. The conference brought together the research and researchers, advanced the science of the problem and its solutions, and developed ways to better communicate about this modern epidemic.

Sources and More Information:

  • Too much medicine, BMJ, 2013.
  • BMJ Launches ‘Too Much Medicine’ Campaign To Tackle The Harms Of Overdiagnosis And Overtreatment, MNT, releases/256903, 26 February 2013.
  • Winding back the harms of too much medicine, BMJ, 346:f1271, 26 February 2013.

Are Drugs Companies transparent enough about their Products?

Dr Fiona Godlee , editor-in-chief of the British Medical Journal, has been calling for greater transparency from the pharmaceutical industry

Matt Frei talks to Dr Fiona Godlee, editor-in-chief of the British Medical Journal. She’s been calling for greater transparency from the drugs companies.

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