Dangers of Disclosure

Editors at PLoS Medicine suggest that merely disclosing conflicts of interest is insufficient and possibly even counterproductive.  From the Scientist:

“When a scientist or doctor has a financial conflict of interest, open disclosure in scientific publications might actually backfire and make bias worse, warn the editors of PLoS Medicine in an editorial out yesterday (April 24). Furthermore, disclosure policies in general do nothing to confront the issues of the conflicts of interest themselves, they write. So what can be done?

‘The reliance that many of us in the medical and publishing communities have on disclosure policy is problematical,’ said Jocalyn Clark, senior magazine editor at PLoS Medicine and one of the authors of the new editorial—’both because it leaves the real question of the conflict of interest unaddressed, but also and more importantly, because…disclosure may actually be worsening the problem.’

Indeed, a study by George Loewenstein of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and colleagues suggests that bias may be greater when conflicts of interest are disclosed. This stems from the idea that doctors strategically exaggerate their advice to patients to counteract the possible effect the disclosure might have on patient opinions. Furthermore, simply disclosing their conflicts might make doctors feel that giving biased advice is acceptable, because the patient “has been warned.” The PLoS Medicine editors extrapolate Loewenstein’s suggestion to published articles.”

Read the entire article:



About UWF Center on Aging

The Center on Aging at the University of West Florida was established in the Fall of 2010 when the School of Psychological and Behavioral Sciences faculty along with assistance from Sponsored Research submitted a grant to the State University System Board of Governors in support of aging initiatives for Northwest Florida. Its mission is to improve the quality of life of aging adults through the application of science to address challenges associated with aging and to promote healthy aging, with an emphasis on prevention. This will be accomplished through inter-disciplinary and inter-professional efforts of basic and applied research, consultation, and partnerships with community agencies. Education and training, direct services to the aging population, and public awareness and understanding of the contributions and needs of elders will be primary objectives.
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