Conflict of interest reporting at medical conferences often misleading

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Conflicts of interest are communicated too briefly in oral presentations presented at medical conferences.
Conflicts of interest are communicated too briefly in oral presentations presented at medical conferences.

Conflicts of interest are not stated clearly or are communicated too briefly in oral presentations presented at medical conferences, according to a prospective study published in BMJ Open.

Investigators prospectively evaluated the presence and frequency of conflict of interest statements in 201 oral presentations at 5 medical conferences during 2016. Additionally, researchers wished to determine the duration of these statements within the presentation.

In the presentations assessed, a total of 143 (71%) featured some type of written statement communicating a conflict of interest. Of 141 statements, 118 were placed on a slide dedicated to the speaker's conflict of interest. Investigators found that these statements were displayed to the audience for a median of 2 seconds (range for conferences, 1.25-7.5 seconds).

The length of time these statements were presented was shorter if the slide contained only a conflict of interest statement vs a slide that contained other information or data (2 seconds vs 8 seconds, respectively). Approximately 32% of presenters explained a component of the conflict of interest when these statements were provided (n=27).

Because the researchers of this study assessed the presence of conflict of interest statements in oral abstracts across only 5 medical disciplines, the findings may not be applicable to other medical conferences focused on different therapeutic areas. The lack of randomization with regard to the study's design represents an additional limitation associated with this research.

The investigators of this study suggest specific improvements in presenting conflict of interest statements, including providing these statements “during question time or having the session chairperson include a conflict of interest statement as part of the introduction of the presentation.”

Reference

Grey A, Avenell A, Dalbeth N, Stewart F, Bolland MJ. Reporting of conflicts of interest in oral presentations at medical conferences: a delegate-based prospective observational study. BMJ Open. 2017;7:e017019.

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