National Lipid Association: Old School Conflicts of Interest

Oct 12th, 2011 | By

Journalist Larry Husten of Cardiobrief.org just posted a fascinating article about conflicts of interest gone wild.

An “expert panel” assembled by the National Lipid Association has recently published new recommendations on how to test patients for high lipids. At first glance, everything appeared legit. The authors are noted researchers in the field. The “Journal of Clinical Lipidology” is in medical libraries and is referenced on Medline. The organization sounds, well, official. But just below the surface are torrents of conflicts of interests. All the authors are paid by lipid companies or lipid testing companies. The actual editor of the journal (also one of the authors) has consulted for seven lipid companies. The article was apparently partially written by medical writers paid by companies. The entire enterprise—from organizing the expert panel to writing the article to getting it published—appears to have been completely underwritten by companies that stand to profit mightily from the article’s recommendations.

If this were 5 years ago, such a blatant display of industry manipulation of thought leaders would not surprise me. But over that time, major medical organizations have endorsed ethical regulations supposedly curbing such practices, most top academic medical centers have discouraged this kind of “promotional academia,” and national legislation has been passed to require full disclosure of the details of payments from drug companies to doctors. Mt. Sinai Hospital’s Jennifer Neuman, an expert on conflicts of interest in medical guideline creation, had this to say about the National Lipid Association’s spurious new guidelines: “The Institute of Medicine has made a number of recommendations on how to manage conflicts of interests on guideline panels in order to limit potential bias, and the NLA appears to have disregarded most of these recommendations. This flies in the face of national and international efforts to improve the credibility of the guideline development process.”

It looks like NLA is definitely kickin’ it old school. Let’s hope this is just a blast from the past and not the beginning of another era of medical corruption.

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