Systematic review finds that appraisal tools for medical research studies address conflicts of interest superficially

Andreas Lundh, Kristine Rasmussen, Lasse Østengaard, Isabelle Boutron, Lesley A Stewart, Asbjørn Hróbjartsson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: To identify and summarise 1) appraisal tools and other guides which address conflicts of interest in medical research studies; and 2) top journals with policies on managing conflicts of interest in journal papers.

STUDY DESIGN AND SETTING: Systematic review. We searched bibliographic databases, other sources and websites of 30 top medical journals. Two authors selected documents and extracted data.

RESULTS: We included 27 appraisal tools. None were designed specifically for addressing conflicts of interest and they included only 1-2 short items on conflicts of interest. We also included eight other types of guides. Of 27 appraisal tools, 23 addressed study funding and 19 authors' conflicts of interest. Nine tools addressed availability of conflicts of interest information, 13 reported conflicts of interest, and five influence from conflicts of interest. Twelve of 30 top journals had conflicts of interest managing policies (beyond disclosure). One journal restricted non-research papers (e.g. editorials) to authors without financial conflicts of interest and ten only restricted under certain circumstances.

CONCLUSION: Appraisal tools that address conflicts of interest typically do so superficially and rarely address how conflicts of interest may influence studies. Less than half of top medical journals have explicit policies on managing conflicts of interest.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104-115
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Clinical Epidemiology
Early online date3 Dec 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Dec 2019

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2019. Published by Elsevier Inc. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy.

Cite this