Does Industry Funding Cause Conflicts of Interest?

Studying conflicts of interest in medical research, education, patient care and institutional management

Industry—including drug, medical device and biotechnology companies—is now the leading funder of medical research, and a major sponsor of continuing medical education. Industry also funds guidelines designed to help translate medical research into practice.

In response to growing concern about conflicts of interest and threats to objectivity in medical research, education and practice stemming from industry funding, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) convened an expert committee that developed principles and recommendations on preventing conflicts of interest and produced a report, Conflict of Interest in Medical Research, Education, and Practice, that was publicly released in September 2009. The report is available for purchase online. The Executive Summary is available online (under Free Resources in the left column).

In developing the report, the committee focused on conflicts of interest stemming from funding by pharmaceutical, medical device and biotechnology companies.

It held six public meetings to gather information from professional societies, patient and consumer groups and other stakeholders. The committee also solicited written statements from 50 stakeholder organizations, and it received 15 responses.

The committee commissioned two background papers, one on approaches to conflict of interest in law, accounting, engineering and architecture and the other on the psychology of influence and bias. The committee also reviewed the literature on ethics and policy related to conflict of interest.