Dr. Johnson's editorial evaluates an article by Giovanni Bariani et al, published in the same JCO issue, entitled "Self-Reported Conflicts of Interest of Authors, Trial Sponsorship, and the Interpretation of Editorials and Related Phase III Trials in Oncology". The authors of this study tested the association between authors's conclusions and self-reported conflicts of interest (COI) or trial sponsorship in oncology studies. They concluded that the "interpretation of recently published phase III cancer trials by their authors or by editorialists was not influenced by financial relationships or industry sponsorship" and speculated that enhanced "awareness of COI policies may have led to more integrity in cancer research reporting."
The authors's conclusion must be startling to those who automatically assume that pharmaceutical company funding of academic oncology experts is evil because it necessarily causes pro-industry bias in the evaluation of oncology trial results. Per usual, empirical research is superior to unfounded intuitions. Dr. Johnson helpfully editorializes that "the skepticism that now accompanies industry sponsorship may cause physicians to unfairly discount findings derived from industry-sponsored trials independent of the study's methodologic quality", such "unwarranted discounting of meaningful trial results regardless of methodologic quality suggests that physicians may not use potential advances in patient care in a timely manner", and "our attitudes toward industry-sponsored trials may have swung too far in a negative direction."
I think, however, that the speculation by the authors that the integrity found in their study may be due to the recent introduction of COI policies is questionable at best. They do not cite identical studies that were performed prior to the introduction of COI policies, so they frankly do not have a baseline to which they can compare their data. It is conceivable, therefore, that COI polices had no impact whatsoever and that oncology authors and editorialists have always demonstrated professional integrity.
As a final note, neither Dr. Johnson nor Bariana et al mention the true problem with pharmaceutical company funding of academic oncology experts: modern pharmaceutical companies are fascist organizations that collude with States in an attempt to exclude alternatives to the products sold by the pharmaceutical companies from the market, so self-respecting academicians who wish to avoid the appearance of any bias (pro-pharmaceutical company and/or pro-State) should never accept such funding. Apparently pointing out this obvious fact is the libertarian duty of the LIBERTARIAN BIOETHICS BLOGger. Hopefully I perform this duty well.