A study published in BMJ Open this month, concludes “the percentage of recent Cochrane meta-analyses on the effects of drug interventions that transparently reported funding sources and trial author–industry financial ties and employment for included trials far exceeds reporting in other journals.” Transparency of funding sources is particularly important for drug trials as the body of evidence may be dominated by studies funded by the makers of the drugs being tested.
In 2012, more rigorous reporting standards for Cochrane Reviews were introduced, including the reporting of trial funding sources and author–industry financial conflicts of interest. Reporting of funding sources for some or all included trials has now improved from 30% in Cochrane reviews of drug trials (as concluded in 2012) to 84% in recently published Cochrane meta-analyses. Only 15% of non-Cochrane reviews reporting funding sources for included trials, according to the recent study.
“Cochrane has made tremendous strides in this area,” said Kimberly Turner, the first author of the study. “with far more transparent reporting than even the top-ranked medical journals” (see 2020 study). Brett Thombs, the study’s senior author, added, “Cochrane is a standard setter in evidence synthesis. We hope that Cochrane will continue to focus on improving transparency in its reviews and that this will influence others to do the same.”
Karla Soares-Weiser, Editor in Chief of the Cochrane Library, commented, “Research integrity is the foundation on which our credibility rests and whilst we are proud of the conclusions this study draws, we know we have more work to do. Transparency is critical for trust and we’re committed to pushing forward our policies around conflicts of interest. This study focused on transparency about financial conflicts of interest, however later this year we will be implementing our revised conflict of interest policy, which further strengthens our rules for minimizing conflicts of interest in our own reviews.”