Conflicts of interest and the (in)dependence of experts advising government on immunization policies.
Vaccine. 2018 Oct 22. Epub 2018 Oct 22. PMID: 30361123
There has been increasing attention to financial conflicts of interest (COI) in public health research and policy making, with concerns that some decisions are not in the public interest. One notable problematic area is expert advisory committee (EAC). While COI management has focused on disclosure, it could go further and assess experts' degree of (in)dependence with commercial interests. We analyzed COI disclosures of members of Québec's immunization EAC (in Canada) using (In)DepScale, a tool we developed for assessing experts' level of (in)dependence. We found great variability of independence with industry and that companies with the highest vaccine sales were predominantly associated with disclosed COIs. We argue that EACs can use the (In)DepScale to better assess and disclose the COIs that affect their experts. Going forward our scale could help manage risk and select members who are less conflicted to foster a culture of transparency and trust in advisors and policy-makers.