Box 2.6.a: The Cochrane Collaboration Code of Conduct for Avoiding Potential Financial Conflicts of Interest

General Principle

The essential activity of The Cochrane Collaboration is co-ordinating the preparation and maintenance of systematic reviews of the effects of healthcare interventions performed by individual authors according to procedures specified by The Cochrane Collaboration. The performance of the review must be free of any real or perceived bias introduced by receipt of any benefit in cash or kind, any hospitality, or any subsidy derived from any source that may have or be perceived to have an interest in the outcome of the review. All entities that constitute The Cochrane Collaboration must accept this General Principle as a condition of participation in the organization.

Policy

(i)                  Receipt of benefits from any source of sponsored research must be acknowledged and conflicts of interest must be disclosed in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews and other publications that emanate from The Cochrane Collaboration.

(ii)                If an author is involved in a study included in his/her review, this must be acknowledged, as it could be perceived as a potential conflict of interest.

(iii)               If a proposal raises a question of serious conflict of interest, this should be forwarded to the local Cochrane Centre for review (and the Steering Group notified accordingly). If the issue involves a Cochrane Centre, the issue should be referred to the Steering Group.

(iv)              It is not mandatory to send funding proposals to the local Cochrane Centre or Steering Group prior to accepting them. However, such reviews would be desirable in cases of restricted donations, or any donation that appears to conflict with the General Principle.

(v)                The Steering Group should receive (and review at least annually) information about all external funds accepted by Cochrane entities. The Steering Group will use this information to prepare and distribute an annual report on the potential conflicts of interest attendant on The Cochrane Collaboration’s solicitation and use of external funds.

(vi)              The Steering Group is considering constituting an Ethics Subgroup to view potential conflicts of interest, to offer recommendations for their resolution, and to consider appropriate sanctions to redress violations of the General Principle.