The Spine Journal recently published a letter (login required) by researchers embroiled in controversy over whether or not the doctors failed to disclose a significant cancer risk in papers published over a decade long period. The letter is in response to a Spine Journal analysis of the research that found there was evidence of increased malignancies. The editors of the journal said the authors used "poor reporting practices" and failed to communicate, “the concern of independent investigators and analysts regarding the risk of cancer with the BMP-2 products (the authors) promote".
Also at issue in this instance is significant monetary compensation provided to the researchers in the form of consulting, research and other support. While this type of collaboration between industry and physicians is essential to bringing new drugs and medical devices to market, this example highlights the potential conflicts of interest and the possibility for impropriety when researchers have a significant financial stake in the outcome of commercial products. Medical journals require that researchers disclose industry relationships when articles are published. At least in one instance the researchers failed to properly disclose the existing financial relationships, contributing more to this controversy.
Significant pressure is now being placed on life science companies to more transparently report on relationships they have with health care provider collaborators through state and federal regulations. I believe this example also shows the important role that medical journals have in making sure all potential conflicts of interest are properly disclosed at the time research is published. To do this properly, physicians contributing research must detail relationships with industry but the journals should perform a due diligence step to verify the veracity of the disclosures is also necessary.