Do conflict of interests disclosures work? Evidence from citations in medical journals

  • Financial ties between drug companies and medical researchers are thought to bias results published in medical journals. To enable readers to account for such bias, most medical journals require authors to disclose potential conflicts of interest. For such policies to be effective, conflict disclosure must modify readers’ beliefs. We therefore examine whether disclosure of financial ties with industry reduces article citations, indicating a discount. A challenge to estimating this effect is selection as drug companies may seek out higher quality authors as consultants or fund their studies, generating a positive correlation between disclosed conflicts and citations. Our analysis confirms this positive association. Including observable controls for article and author quality attenuates but does not eliminate this relation. To tease out whether other researchers discount articles with conflicts, we perform three tests. First, we show that the positive association is weaker for review articles, which are more susceptible to bias. Second, we examine article recommendations to family physicians by medical experts, who choose from articles that are a priori more homogenous in quality. Here, we find a significantly negative association between disclosure and expert recommendations, consistent with discounting. Third, we conduct an analysis within author and article, exploiting journal policy changes that result in conflict disclosure by an author. We examine the effect of this disclosure on citations to a previously published article by the same author. This analysis reveals a negative citation effect. Overall, we find evidence that disclosures negatively affect citations, consistent with the notion that other researchers discount articles with disclosed conflicts.

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Author:Christian LeuzORCiDGND, Anup MalaniORCiDGND, Maximilian MuhnGND, Laszlo JakabGND
Parent Title (English):Center for Financial Studies (Frankfurt am Main): CFS working paper series ; No. 702
Series (Serial Number):CFS working paper series (702)
Publisher:Center for Financial Studies
Place of publication:Frankfurt, M.
Document Type:Working Paper
Year of Completion:2022
Year of first Publication:2022
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2023/03/16
Tag:Bias in medical research; Disclosure regulation; Financial interests; Research and development; Transparency
Edition:December 2022
Page Number:55
We gratefully acknowledge the generous financial support by the Initiative on Global Markets at the Booth School and the
University of Chicago Law School.
Institutes:Wirtschaftswissenschaften / Wirtschaftswissenschaften
Wissenschaftliche Zentren und koordinierte Programme / Center for Financial Studies (CFS)
Dewey Decimal Classification:3 Sozialwissenschaften / 33 Wirtschaft / 330 Wirtschaft
JEL-Classification:D Microeconomics / D8 Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty / D83 Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief
D Microeconomics / D8 Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty / D84 Expectations; Speculations
G Financial Economics / G1 General Financial Markets / G18 Government Policy and Regulation
K Law and Economics / K2 Regulation and Business Law / K20 General
L Industrial Organization / L5 Regulation and Industrial Policy / L51 Economics of Regulation
M Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting / M4 Accounting and Auditing / M40 General
O Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth / O3 Technological Change; Research and Development / O31 Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
Licence (German):License LogoDeutsches Urheberrecht