Reporting of financial conflicts of interest in meta-Analyses of drug trials published in high-impact medical journals: Comparison of results from 2017 to 2018 and 2009

Carla Benea, Kimberly A. Turner, Michelle Roseman, Lisa A. Bero, Joel Lexchin, Erick H. Turner, Brett D. Thombs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: A previous study found that 2 of 29 (6.9%) meta-Analyses published in high-impact journals in 2009 reported included drug trials' funding sources, and none reported trial authors' financial conflicts of interest (FCOIs) or industry employment. It is not known if reporting has improved since 2009. Our objectives were to (1) investigate the extent to which pharmaceutical industry funding and author-industry FCOIs and employment from included drug trials are reported in meta-Analyses published in high-impact journals and (2) compare current reporting with results from 2009. Methods: We searched PubMed (January 2017-October 2018) for systematic reviews with meta-Analyses including ≥ 2 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of patented drugs. We included 3 meta-Analyses published January 2017-October 2018 from each of 4 high-impact general medicine journals, high-impact journals from 5 specialty areas, and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, as in the previous study. Results: Among 29 meta-Analyses reviewed, 13 of 29 (44.8%) reported the funding source of included trials compared to 2 of 29 (6.9%) in 2009, a difference of 37.9% (95% confidence interval, 15.7 to 56.3%); this included 7 of 11 (63.6%) from general medicine journals, 3 of 15 (20.0%) from specialty medicine journals, and 3 of 3 (100%) Cochrane reviews. Only 2 of 29 meta-Analyses (6.9%) reported trial author FCOIs, and none reported trial author-industry employment. Protocol Publication: A protocol was uploaded to the Open Science Framework prior to initiating the study. Limitations: We examined only a relatively small number of meta-Analyses from selected high-impact journals and compared results to a similarly small sample from an earlier time period. Conclusions: Reporting of drug trial sponsorship and author FCOIs in meta-Analyses published in high-impact journals has increased since 2009 but is still suboptimal. Standards on reporting of trial funding described in the forthcoming revised PRISMA statement should be adapted and enforced by journals to improve reporting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number77
JournalSystematic Reviews
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 8 2020



  • Financial conflicts of interest
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Reporting
  • Research methods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)

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