Conflict of interest in systematic reviews and its implications for public health policy
This paper examines the issues related to conflict of interest (COI) in generation and dissemination of evidence from systematic reviews and its influence on evidence in developing public health policy. Several examples exist on COI in the health and nutrition field due to the influence of private corporations and funding institutions. COI is an important factor contributing to publication bias in primary studies because of dynamics such as delayed publication, suppression of negative findings, and falsifying of data, thus influencing systematic review findings. Systematic review findings have also been found to be biased because of financial and/or non-financial COI. A set of recommendations, such as increased government funding towards research, explicit COI policies in journals, clinical trial data transparency, and methodological guidelines, including COI compliance while conducting and reporting systematic reviews, is proposed. The government has a larger role in regulating COI in production and reporting of evidence and its use in public policy decision-making.
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