I’ve spent years studying, teaching, and writing about conflict of interest (COI). In that time I’ve seen hundreds of justifications offered for deep entanglements between physicians or scientists and commercial industry.
Plausible arguments support such relationships, but the actors in question rarely invoke them. Instead, the standard reasons given often suggest no familiarity whatsoever with the substantial evidence base regarding motivated bias and its impact on human behavior, including physicians’ and scientists’ behavior.
Any reasonable attempt to justify deep relationships with commercial industries must begin by acknowledging the evidence rather than trotting out tired justifications that have mostly been contradicted by the evidence. The claim that various barriers to such influence are sufficient to prevent it—for example, individual virtue, institutional management, or disclosure—is simply not an evidence based view.
After reading yet another news story containing the usual sorts of flaccid justifications, I decided to construct a COI Bingo chart as a way of both satirizing the rationales offered and suggesting their typicality: a typicality which, again, contravenes a healthy and robust evidence base.
Physicians and scientists often profess a commitment to follow the evidence wherever it leads. Those seeking to justify deep relationships with commercial industry ought to follow that dictum and acquaint themselves with the evidence on motivated bias and COIs.1 2 3 4 Hence, the COI Bingo chart (fig 1⇓).
Daniel S Goldberg, assistant professor, Department of Bioethics and Interdisciplinary Studies, Brody School of Medicine, East Carolina University; 2015-16 Honors College Faculty fellow, 600 Moye Blvd, Mailstop 641, Greenville, NC 27834, USA