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Doctors, Drug Co. Links Studied
By Associated Press

CHICAGO -- A survey of doctors who wrote treatment guidelines for common diseases such as diabetes, depression and arthritis found that most had ties to drug companies, but few thought those ties influenced their recommendations.

The findings, published in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association, suggest drug company connections could have compromised the doctors' ability to create objective guidelines that served patients' best interests.

Among those who responded to the survey, 58 percent said they had received research funding from drug companies and 38 percent said they had served as company employees or consultants.

Moreover, 59 percent of the doctors said they had ties to pharmaceutical companies whose drugs were considered in the drafting of the guidelines they wrote.

Of these authors, 96 percent said the relationships were formed before the guidelines were created. Only 7 percent thought the ties affected their own guideline recommendations, although 19 percent thought such ties influenced their co-authors' recommendations.

"Unfortunately, bias may occur both consciously and subconsciously, and therefore its influence may go unrecognized," lead author Dr. Niteesh Choudhry and his colleagues at the University of Toronto said in the study.

The results were based on a survey mailed to 192 doctors involved with creating 44 "clinical practice guidelines" for treating diseases. Only 100 doctors provided usable responses, and whether they accurately assessed drug companies' influence over them is not known, the survey authors said.

The survey was mailed to authors of guidelines endorsed by North American and European medical societies and published between 1991 and 1999.

Guidelines were for the treatment of asthma and chronic obstructive lung disease, cardiovascular disease, heart failure, depression, diabetes, peptic ulcers, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis and pneumonia.

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