Conflicts of Interest at the National Academies' Committee on Conflicts of Interest

Posted by Jesse Reynolds on November 6th, 2007

The National Academies, a set of four nonprofit organizations closely affiliated with the federal government, are held in high regard and often touted as providing the "gold standard" in objective scientific advice. But critics such as the Integrity in Science project of the Center for Science in the Public Interest assert that conflicts of interest are a major problem on the Academies' advisory committees. For example, a 2006 CSPI report [PDF] concluded that "Nearly one out of every five scientists appointed to an NAS panel has direct financial ties to companies or industry groups with a direct stake in the outcome of that study."

So perhaps it shouldn't have been too surprising that when the Institute of Medicine, one of the Academies, established a panel of experts to create guidelines for managing conflicts of interest in all aspects of medicine (education, practice, and research), a sizable portion had conflicts of interest. These conflicted members were provided waivers, which are given out with regularity and apparent ease. In response to criticisms such as those from CSPI, the IOM merely added two members, albeit two experienced in critiquing conflicts of interest in medicine. 

Irony? Tragedy? Farce?

The committee wraps up its first two-day meeting today.

Posted in Jesse Reynolds's Blog Posts, US Federal


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