Abstract Objectives: This study aimed to assess the extent of conflicts of interest among the Japanese government COVID-19 advisory board members and elucidate the accuracy of conflicts of interest (COI) disclosure and management strategies. Methods: Using the payment data from all 79 pharmaceutical companies in Japan between 2017 and 2018 and direct research grants from the Japanese government between 2019 and 2020, we evaluated the extent of financial and non-financial COI among all 20 Japanese government COVID-19 advisory board members. Results: Japanese government COVID-19 advisory board members were predominantly male (75.0%) and physicians (50.0%). Between 2019 and 2020, two members (10.0%) received a total of $819,244 in government research funding. Another five members (25.0%) received $419,725 in payments, including $223,183 in personal fees, from 28 pharmaceutical companies between 2017 and 2018. The average value of the pharmaceutical payments was $20,986 (standard deviation: $81,762). Further, neither the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare nor the Japanese Cabinet Secretariat disclosed financial or non-financial COI with industry. Further, the government and had no policies for managing COI among advisory board members. Conclusions: This study found that the Japanese government COVID-19 advisory board had financial and non-financial COI with pharmaceutical companies and the government. Further, there were no rigorous COI management strategies for the COVID-19 advisory board members. Any government must ensure the independence of scientific advisory boards by implementing more rigorous and transparent management strategies that require the declaration and public disclosure of all COI.
Competing Interest Statement
As non-financial conflicts of interest, Anju Murayama, Akihiko Ozaki, Hiroaki Saito, Toyoaki Sawano, and Tetsuya Tanimoto have several research articles related to the conflicts of interest among healthcare professionals in Japan. Hiroaki Saito received personal fees from TAIHO Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd outside the scope of the submitted work. Akihiko Ozaki and Tetsuya Tanimoto received personal fees from Medical Network Systems outside the scope of the submitted work. Tetsuya Tanimoto also received personal fees from Bionics Co. Ltd, outside the scope of the submitted work.
This study was funded in part by the Medical Governance Research Institute. This non-profit enterprise receives donations from pharmaceutical companies, including Ain Pharmaciez, Inc., other organizations, and private individuals. This study also received support from the Tansa (formerly known as Waseda Chronicle), an independent non-profit news organization dedicated to investigative journalism. Ain Pharmacies had no role in the design and conduct of the study, the collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data, the preparation, review, and approval of the manuscript, or the decision to submit the manuscript for publication. Tansa was engaged in the collection and management of the payment data, but had no role in the design and conduct of the study, the analysis and interpretation of the data, the preparation, review and approval of the manuscript, or the decision to submit the manuscript for publication.
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The Ethics Committee of the Medical Governance Research Institute approved this study on June 5, 2020. (ID: MG2018-04-0516) Informed consent waived and direct contact to the related organizations, including the Japanese Cabinet Secretariat and the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare, were allowed by the Ethics Committee of the Medical Governance Research Institute.
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Paper in collection COVID-19 SARS-CoV-2 preprints from medRxiv and bioRxiv