Evidence Underlying Recommendations and Payments from Industry to Authors of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network Guidelines

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AbstractBackground.The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines are among the most widely used guidance in oncology. It is critical to understand the extent to which the recommendations in these guidelines are supported by evidence and to investigate whether these recommendations have been influenced by payments from industry to authors.Materials and Methods.We examined the quality and consistency of evidence, as scored by guidelines authors, for systemic treatment incorporated in the NCCN guidelines. Payments data in 2015 were manually abstracted using the Open Payments database, which discloses all payments between the industry and American physicians. Correlations between the percentage of authors who received payments and the proportion of recommendations developed from low‐level evidence per guideline were calculated using Spearman rank correlation.Results.In total, 1,782 recommendations were identified in 29 guidelines, of which 1,282 (71.9%) were based on low‐quality or low‐consistency evidence (low‐level evidence), including “case reports or clinical experience only” (18.9%). A substantial proportion (31/143, 21.7%) of category 1 (the highest level) recommendations were based on low‐level evidence. The majority of authors (87.1%) received payments from industry. However, no association was found between the prevalence of payments among authors and the percentage of recommendations developed from low‐level evidence per guideline.Conclusion.The majority of systemic treatment recommendations in the NCCN guidelines are based on low‐level evidence, including more than one in five category 1 recommendations. Payments from industry were prevalent among authors. However, industrial payments among authors were not associated with inclusion of regimen/agent for which there is no conclusive evidence in the guidelines.Implications for Practice.The authors found that the majority (71.9%) of systemic treatment recommendations issued in the current National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines were based on low‐level evidence. Physicians should remain cautious when using current guidelines as the sole source guiding patient care decisions.

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