Cochrane statement to WHA on managing conflict of interest

Cochrane statement on Framework of engagement with non-State actors (World Health Assembly (WHA) Agenda item 11.3) 

Thank you for the opportunity to deliver this statement on behalf of The Cochrane Collaboration. An important part of Cochrane’s work with WHO involves support for guideline development. In 2015, 75% of the WHO guidelines issued cited a Cochrane Systematic Review.[1]

Recent analyses of WHO guidelines[2][3] have shown that editorial independence and use of reliable evidence have increased markedly since WHO has implemented reforms to protect against conflicts of interests. In 2015, Cochrane responded to the WHO Executive Board agenda item on 'WHO guidelines: development and governance'. We highlighted that involving participants with conflicts of interest in guideline development is likely to influence recommendations, make them less evidence based, and impact on their credibility.[4]

We urge the WHO to replicate its high standards for managing conflict of interest in guideline development across all of its work. In addition to individual conflict of interest disclosure, WHO’s conflict of interest policy should include other conflicts of interest, and be extended to disclosures from organizations providing evidence or information to WHO committees, such as the Expert Committee on the Selection and Use of Essential Medicines.

We congratulate the Working Group for their efforts to date in recognizing the need to ensure WHO's global health normative work remains free from any potential commercial and other interests. We sincerely hope this protection will continue through the finalization of FENSA and its implementation.  


Signed on behalf of the Cochrane WHO Working Group:

Lisa Bero, Co-Chair, Cochrane Steering Group
David Tovey, Editor in Chief, Cochrane Library
Erik von Elm, Co-Director, Cochrane Switzerland
Paul Garner, Coordinating Editor, Cochrane Infectious Diseases
Julie Wood, Head of Communication and External Affairs, Cochrane
Sylvia de Haan, Partnerships Coordinator, Cochrane



[2] Sinclair D, Isba R, Kredo T, Zani B, Smith H, Garner P. World Health Organization Guideline Development: An Evaluation. PLoS ONE 2013, 8(5): e63715. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063715

[3] Burda BU, Chambers AR, Johnson JC.  Appraisal of guideline developed by the World Health Organization.  Public Health 2014, 128:(2014): 444-474.

[4] Cosgrove L, Bursztajn HJ, Erlich DR, Wheeler EE, Shaughnessy AF.  Conflicts of interest and the quality of recommendations in clinical guidelines.  J Eval Clin Practice 2012, 19:(2013):674-681.


Monday, May 23, 2016