Hip pad study comes with conflict of interest

A recent study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that hip protectors did not provide any substantial reduction in the incidence of hip fractures. However, the authors of the study failed to disclose that they receive research funding from the manufacturers of bone-strengthening drugs. The JAMA defends itself, claiming that it cannot possibly investigate the financial sources of all of its authors, and experts on integrity and ethics in research believe that such failures to disclose are typically innocent. However, others believe that the study could easily be interpreted to discontinue the use of hip protectors in favor of the products of the authors’ corporate backers.

The failure to disclose funding from a bone-strength pharmaceutical manufacturer underscores a more pervasive problem in the scientific community. With pharmaceutical and medical device corporations funding more and more scientific research, the days of the purely academic scientist is long gone. Studies have shown that research conducted with industry dollars is more likely to have results favoring corporate interests. Last year, the JAMA announced that they were going to start enforcing more strict disclosure standards, but the legitimacy of these disclosures necessarily depends on the integrity of the researcher. The financial industry depends on similar disclosures in reporting financial news, and, rather than chalk up the failure to disclose as an innocent oversight, the scientific community should adopt a culture that takes its disclosures seriously.

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