A Proposed Approach May Help Systematic Reviews Retain Needed Expertise While Minimizing Bias from Nonfinancial Conflicts of Interest

Published in: Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, v. 67, no. 11, Nov. 2014, p. 1229-1238

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2014

by Meera Viswanathan, Timothy S. Carey, Suzanne E. Belinson, Elise Berliner, Stephanie M. Chang, Elaine Graham, Jeanne-Marie Guise, Stanley Ip, Margaret A. Maglione, Douglas C. McCrory, et al.

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OBJECTIVES: Groups such as the Institute of Medicine emphasize the importance of attention to financial conflicts of interest. Little guidance exists, however, on managing the risk of bias for systematic reviews from nonfinancial conflicts of interest. We sought to create practical guidance on ensuring adequate clinical or content expertise while maintaining independence of judgment on systematic review teams. STUDY DESIGN AND SETTING: Workgroup members built on existing guidance from international and domestic institutions on managing conflicts of interest. We then developed practical guidance in the form of an instrument for each potential source of conflict. RESULTS: We modified the Institute of Medicine's definition of conflict of interest to arrive at a definition specific to nonfinancial conflicts. We propose questions for funders and systematic review principal investigators to evaluate the risk of nonfinancial conflicts of interest. Once risks have been identified, options for managing conflicts include disclosure followed by no change in the systematic review team or activities, inclusion on the team along with other members with differing viewpoints to ensure diverse perspectives, exclusion from certain activities, and exclusion from the project entirely. CONCLUSION: The feasibility and utility of this approach to ensuring needed expertise on systematic reviews and minimizing bias from nonfinancial conflicts of interest must be investigated.

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