We help journalists avoid reliance on sources with financial conflicts of interest

By | October 12, 2019

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Gary Schwitzer is the founder and publisher of HealthNewsReview.org.  He tweets as @garyschwitzer, or at @HealthNewsRevu.

For the past 11 years, HealthNewsReview.org has helped journalists find industry-independent experts to use as sources in their stories.  It’s an effort begun by journalists Jeanne Lenzer and Shannon Brownlee (now a VP at the Lown Institute), but joined by me and Adriane Fugh-Berman, MD, of Georgetown not long after.

You can read more about the genesis of our list of industry-independent experts in this BMJ article if you have a subscription.  (Note to BMJ: This shouldn’t be behind a paywall.) Or read our backgrounder on this website.

Many journalists have asked us for access to the list – for example, recent requests from journalists for Forbes, Houston Chronicle, Science magazine, STAT, USA Today, and a web section editor for the Association of Health Care Journalists.

Members of our list recently made news themselves by publicly objecting to undeclared drug company funding of the National Partnership for Maternal Safety.  The Partnership published recommendations that would greatly expand the use of blood-thinning drugs in women who had c-section deliveries. Critics said that the recommendation “would cost as much as $ 130 million and would expose thousands of women to the risk of severe bleeding and other side effects.”  The Lown Institute wrote about the episode.  It took three years for the journal of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology – which published the conflicted recommendations – to add a correction about the conflicts of interest.

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It is one small but significant example of individuals taking a stand against undisclosed conflicts of interest in health care.

A member of our list of industry-independent experts – Adam Urato, MD, Chief of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at the MetroWest Medical Center in Framingham, Massachusetts – helped recruit other list members to object to the initial recommendations.

Dr. Urato says the list was “immensely helpful,” and that “a lone voice might have been ignored, [but] 46 people joining together to call attention to this issue makes all of the difference… This type of effort by the list helps to call attention to the problem of corporate influence in medicine — and, ultimately, to help protect and inform pregnant women and the public.”

There are now more than 100 members of The List of Industry-Independent Experts. Our group continuously reviews nominations for new list members. In our most recent addition of names, the list members who recommended and endorsed the latest additions were leading voices on conflict of interest issues – Drs. John Ioannidis, Vinay Prasad and Teppo Jarvinen.   Here are the eight newest list members:

Jarno Rutanen, MD, PhD, Rheumatologist, Tampere University. Dr. Rutanen has a special interest in drug safety and regulatory issues.Finland.

David Nunan, PhD, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Evidence Based Medicine, Oxford University, focus on critical appraisal and clinical care. UK

Allen Frances, MD, emeritus professor of psychiatry, Duke University, headed development of the 4th revision of psychiatry’s Diagnostic & Statistical Manual. US (Note: By mutual agreement between Dr. Frances and the list moderators, his application was withdrawn after questions were raised about his previous conflicts of interest which he said he did not want to respond to or revisit.)

Sanket Dhruva, MD, cardiologist, assistant professor of medicine, UCSF, focus on drug and device approval, medical devices, and regulatory affairs. US

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Genevieve Kanter,PhD, assistant professor, University of Pennsylvania,focus on regulation of biomedical technologies (drugs and devices), health economics, and health services research.US

Susan Bewley, MD,  emeritus professor (honorary) of Obstetrics and Women’s Health, Kings College, London, with special interest in ethics and conflicts of interest; worked with National Institute of Clinical Excellence. UK

Ioana Cristea, PhD, assistant professor, University of Pavia, Italy and previous Fulbright Visiting Scholar at METRICS –  the Meta-Research Innovation Center at Stanford University. with a focus on psychiatry and clinical psychology. Italy

Jussi Valtonen, PhD, visiting professor, University of the Arts, Helsinki, psychology, neuropsychology; previously postdoctoral researcher at New York University. Finland

Journalists who want access to The List can fill out this online form or do so from Jeanne Lenzer’s website

You can also listen to a 2017 podcast we produced about The List of Industry-Independent Experts.

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