Medical Care Guidelines and Conflicts of Interest

According to a published study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, most doctors who write medical guidelines for cardiology care have financial ties to pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers. The study concludes that such financial ties lead to an inherent conflict of interest.
“Improper bias in the clinical practice guidelines can have a potentially more widespread adverse effect on patient care than individual practitioners’ conflicts of interest,” the study said.
In one set of guidelines written for the use of pacemakers and defibrillators, only 7 of 34 doctors had no financial ties to a related medical company. Since these medical care guidelines are increasingly seen as the “standard of care” for cardiac patients, it would seem that such conflicts of interest would be contrary to the best interests of the patient.
According to the Wall St. Journal, “The researchers, led by James N. Kirkpatrick of the University of Pennsylvania, found that 56% of the 498 doctors who helped write guidelines for treatment of heart ailments had potential conflicts of interest.
The study listed 11 companies as most often involved in potential conflicts. Medtronic Inc., the Minneapolis device maker, had the most, or was tied for the most financial ties to guideline writers on seven of the 17 heart guideline panels. Drug maker Pfizer Inc. had the most financial ties, or was tied for the most, on four guideline committees.”
Scientific research, especially research that cardiologists rely upon to treat their patients, should be free of such financial conflicts. These types of conflicts may lead to medical errors that harm patients and erode consumer confidence in the medical profession.