Extent, transparency and impact of industry funding for pelvic mesh research: a review of the literature.

Conflicts of interest inherent in industry funding can bias medical research methods, outcomes, reporting and clinical applications. This study explored the extent of funding provided to American physician researchers studying surgical mesh used to treat uterine prolapse or stress urinary incontinence, and whether that funding was declared by researchers or influenced the ethical integrity of resulting publications in peer reviewed journals.

Publications identified via a Pubmed search (2014-2021) of the terms mesh and pelvic organ prolapse or stress urinary incontinence and with at least one US physician author were reviewed. Using the CMS Open Payments database industry funding received by those MDs in the year before, of and after publication was recorded, as were each study's declarations of funding and 14 quality measures.

Fifty-three of the 56 studies reviewed had at least one American MD author who received industry funding in the year of, or one year before or after publication. For 47 articles this funding was not declared. Of 247 physician authors, 60% received > $100 while 13% received $100,000-$1,000,000 of which approximately 60% was undeclared. While 57% of the studies reviewed explicitly concluded that mesh was safe, only 39% of outcomes supported this. Neither the quality indicator of follow-up duration nor overall statements as to mesh safety varied with declaration status.

Journal editors' guidelines re declaring conflicts of interest are not being followed. Financial involvement of industry in mesh research is extensive, often undeclared, and may shape the quality of, and conclusions drawn, resulting in overstated benefit and overuse of pelvic mesh in clinical practice.

Research integrity and peer review. 2024 Apr 30*** epublish ***

Angela Coderre-Ball, Susan P Phillips

Centre for Studies in Primary Care, Queen's University, Kingston, Canada., Centre for Studies in Primary Care, Queen's University, Kingston, Canada. .