An Official American Thoracic Society Policy Statement: Managing Conflict of Interest in Professional Societies

Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine (Impact Factor: 13). 10/2009; 180(6):564-80. DOI: 10.1164/rccm.200901-0126ST
Source: PubMed


Competing interests occur frequently in health care. This results in the potential for conflict of interest (COI). COI can lead to biased generation or assessment of evidence and misinform healthcare decision makers. Declaration of COI is insufficient to neutralize potentially harmful effects. Medical professional societies are obliged to develop robust mechanisms to "manage" COI, particularly in the development of official guidance documents that affect health care.
This document describes the background, methods, and content of the new "American Thoracic Society (ATS) Policy on Management of COI in Official ATS Documents, Projects, and Conferences."
We used existing reviews on COI policies that were prepared for the World Health Organization and for an ATS guideline methodology workshop as the evidence base for this work. We reviewed existing policies of selected organizations and other relevant literature. Members of the ATS Documents Development and Implementation Committee and the ATS Ethics and COI Committee collaborated to draft a COI policy. We used face-to-face meetings, electronic correspondence, and teleconferences to finalize the draft. The policy then underwent review and ultimate approval by the ATS Board of Directors.
The ATS developed a new policy and procedures for declaration and management of COI. These procedures include: (1) self declaration of COI, (2) review of potential participants' COI, (3) disclosure of COI to project participants, (4) refusal or excusal from certain decisions or recommendations when appropriate, (5) disclosure of COI to users of documents or attendees of conferences, (6) handling disputes in COI resolution. This policy includes a tool that may be useful for supporting decision makers in management of COIs as they assess the value and relevance of conflicts.
The ATS Policy on Management of COI in Official ATS Documents, Projects, and Conferences, in effect since March 2008, promises greater organizational transparency. Application and ongoing evaluation of the policy will give the ATS the opportunity to determine its usefulness in specific settings.

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    • "Although financial interests are usually the most obvious, intellectual interests are increasingly recognized and may be powerful motivators for researchers, systematic reviewers, and guideline authors [41], [42]. Intellectual COI has been defined as “academic activities that create the potential for an attachment to a specific point of view that could unduly affect an individual’s judgment about a specific recommendation” [43]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background Conflict of interest (COI) is an important potential source of bias in the development of clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) and high rates of COI among guideline authors have been reported in the past. Our objective was to report current rates of disclosure and specific author COI across a broad range of CPGs and to examine whether CPG characteristics were associated with the presence of disclosures and of conflicts. Methods and Findings We selected a random sample of 250 CPGs listed in the National Guideline Clearinghouse on November 22, 2010, representing approximately a 10% sample of guidelines listed in the NGC on that date. We abstracted information on author COI from each CPG and examined predictors of the disclosures and COI using a logistic generalized estimating equation regression model. 87% of organizations developing guidelines had a CPG-specific policy, however, 40% of CPGs did not indicate that they had collected disclosures from guideline authors. In addition, 42% of organizations that did collect author disclosures did not have those disclosures available in the public domain. Of CPGs where we had disclosures for all authors, 60% had one or more authors with a conflict. On average, 28% of the authors of CPGs with available disclosures had a COI. Guidelines that were published in journals with an impact factor greater than 5.0 were more likely to have one or more authors with a COI than guidelines not published in journals. Conclusions Rates of disclosure of author COI and the public availability of that information are unacceptably low, however rates of COI among guideline authors may have decreased in recent years. Continued efforts are needed to establish and enforce optimal COI policies in clinical practice guideline development in order to minimize the risk of bias associated with those conflicts.
    PLoS ONE 11/2012; 7(11):e47343. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0047343 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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    • "The aim (and challenge) should be to manage the potential COI appropriately ranging from informal consultation and exclusion from a group to participation without influencing recommendations. Approaches to doing this have been described in a recent policy of the American Thoracic Society [29]; an example is in a WHO guideline on Avian Influenza where un-conflicted methodologists prepared evidence summaries, chaired the guideline committee and wrote the first draft of the guideline. [45,46] A further implementation including a clearer separation of un-conflicted methodologists from the influence of potentially conflicted experts is currently undertaken by the executive committee of the American College of Chest Physicians Antithrombotic Guidelines. "
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    ABSTRACT: Clinical practice guidelines are one of the foundations of efforts to improve health care. In 1999, we authored a paper about methods to develop guidelines. Since it was published, the methods of guideline development have progressed both in terms of methods and necessary procedures and the context for guideline development has changed with the emergence of guideline clearing houses and large scale guideline production organisations (such as the UK National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence). It therefore seems timely to, in a series of three articles, update and extend our earlier paper. In this first paper we discuss: the target audience(s) for guidelines and their use of guidelines; identifying topics for guidelines; guideline group composition (including consumer involvement) and the processes by which guideline groups function and the important procedural issue of managing conflicts of interest in guideline development.
    Implementation Science 07/2012; 7(1):60. DOI:10.1186/1748-5908-7-60 · 4.12 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The links between asthma and rhinitis are well characterized. The Allergic Rhinitis and its Impact on Asthma (ARIA) guidelines stress the importance of these links and provide guidance for their prevention and treatment. Despite effective treatments being available, too few patients receive appropriate medical care for both diseases. Most patients with rhinitis and asthma consult primary care physicians and therefore these physicians are encouraged to understand and use ARIA guidelines. Patients should also be informed about these guidelines to raise their awareness of optimal care and increase control of the two related diseases. To apply these guidelines, clinicians and patients need to understand how and why the recommendations were made. The goal of the ARIA guidelines is to provide recommendations about the best management options for most patients in most situations. These recommendations should be based on the best available evidence. Making recommendations requires the assessment of the quality of available evidence, deciding on the balance between benefits and downsides, consideration of patients' values and preferences, and, if applicable, resource implications. Guidelines must be updated as new management options become available or important new evidence emerges. Transparent reporting of guidelines facilitates understanding and acceptance, but implementation strategies need to be improved.
    Allergy 10/2010; 65(10):1212-21. · 6.03 Impact Factor
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