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Conflicts of Interest in Clinical Guidelines: Update of US Preventive Services Task Force Policies and Procedures

Authors: 
Ngo-Metzger Q, Moyer V, Grossman D, Ebell M, Woo M, Miller T, Brummer T, Chowdhury J, Kato E, Siu A, Phillips W, Davidson K, Phipps M, Bibbins-Domingo K
Year: 
2018
Journal: 
American Journal of Preventative Medicine
Pub Med #: 
Abstract: 

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) provides independent, objective, and scientifically rigorous recommendations for clinical preventive services. A primary concern is to avoid even the appearance of members having special interests that might influence their ability to judge evidence and formulate unbiased recommendations. The conflicts of interest policy for the USPSTF is described, as is the formal process by which best practices were incorporated to update the policy. The USPSTF performed a literature review, conducted key informant interviews, and reviewed conflicts of interest policies of ten similar organizations. Important findings included transparency and public accessibility; full disclosure of financial relationships; disclosure of non-financial relationships (that create the potential for bias and compromise a member's objective judgment); disclosure of family members' conflicts of interests; and establishment of appropriate reporting periods. Controversies in best practices include the threshold of financial disclosures, ease of access to conflicts of interest policies and declarations, vague definition of non-financial biases, and request for family members' conflicts of interests (particularly those that are non-financial in nature). The USPSTF conflicts of interest policy includes disclosures for immediate family members, a clear non-financial conflicts of interest definition, long look-back period and application of the policy to prospective members. Conflicts of interest is solicited from all members every 4 months, formally reviewed, adjudicated, and made publicly available. The USPSTF conflicts of interest policy is publicly available as part of the USPSTF Procedure Manual. A continuous improvement process can be applied to conflicts of interest policies to enhance public trust in members of panels, such as the USPSTF, that produce clinical guidelines and recommendations.