Background: Clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) serve as standards of care in practice, quality improvement, and reimbursement. The extent of conflicts of interest (COIs) in cardiology guideline production has not been well studied. Herein, we describe the scope of COIs in CPGs.
Methods: We examined the 17 most recent American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association guidelines through 2008. Using disclosure lists, we cataloged COIs for each participant as receiving a research grant, being on a speaker's bureau and/or receiving honoraria, owning stock, or being a consultant or member of an advisory board. We also cataloged the companies and institutions reported in each disclosure. "Episode" describes 1 instance of participation in 1 guideline by 1 person. "Individual" describes 1 person who may be involved in multiple episodes. "Company" describes a commercial or industry affiliation reported by an individual in a single episode. Analysis involved descriptive statistics and correlation analyses (Pearson correlation coefficient, χ(2) and R(2)).
Results: Fifty-six percent of the 498 individuals reported a COI, corresponding to 56% of the 651 episodes. Being a consultant or member of an advisory board was the most common type. The percentage of episodes involving a COI varied between guidelines (range, 13%-87%). The number of episodes per individual was associated with both presence and number of disclosures (P < .001 for both comparisons). Of 478 companies, the number per guideline ranged from 2 to 242 companies (mean, 38 companies). One company was the most frequently reported company in 7 of 17 guidelines.
Conclusion: Conflicts of interest are prevalent in cardiology guidelines, but there seems to be a significant number of experienced experts without COIs.