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Speaker Conflicts of Interest May Bias Testimony About Drugs

Public speakers with conflict of interest more likely to provide positive testimony of psychiatric drug

THURSDAY, Feb. 6, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Public speakers who disclose a conflict of interest (COI) with a pharmaceutical company are more likely to provide a favorable testimony for the recommendation of psychiatric drugs, according to a study published online Feb. 4 in BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine.

Will Roberts, from Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences in Tulsa, and colleagues examined the characteristics and COIs of public speakers at Psychopharmacologic Drug Advisory Committee meetings of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. A total of 145 public speakers at FDA committee meetings were evaluated during a 10-year period.

The researchers found that 52 public speakers disclosed a COI, with the most prominent being travel and lodgings. Overall, 82.4 percent of these speakers provided a positive testimony regarding the psychiatric drug in question. The likelihood of providing a positive statement was no higher among speakers who had the condition versus those who did not.

“We recommend pharmaceutical companies not be allowed to handpick the patients they want to speak during open public hearings, but rather random video diaries from patients involved in the drug’s clinical trial phases be played at these hearings instead to promote transparency and validity regarding the approval process,” the authors write. “Furthermore, we recommend additional procedures be considered for implementation by the FDA regarding COIs, namely stricter management of COIs or prohibition.”

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