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Money Talks: Ob/Gyn Society Let Bayer Write Its Birth Control Guidelines

A society for Canadian ob/gyns allowed Bayer (BAYRY), maker of contraceptives such as Yaz, Yasmin and Beyaz, to write its prescribing guidelines for hormone-based birth control pills and failed to disclose that conflict of interest, according to a paper in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

In January, I reported that Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada was remiss in not disclosing that it received funding from Bayer when it unveiled its contraceptive guidelines. The guidelines summarize recent research into new-generation pills like Yaz which some claim carry a greater risk of fatal blood clots than older, cheaper generic pills. Bayer faces about 5,000 lawsuits over Yaz. The new guidelines suggest there is no increased risk with Yaz-type products and that research showing higher risks has "significant methodological flaws." They don't mention non-pill alternatives such as condoms for women who want to reduce their risk.

According to CMAJ's Kate Johnson, that rather understated the level of Bayer's influence over Canada's ob/gyns. The SOGC simply copied Bayer's own position paper on contraception, sometimes word for word. Here, for instance, is the SOGC statement:

Modern oral contraceptives afford not only excellent contraception but also a variety of non-contraceptive benefits, ranging from regulation and reduction of both menstrual bleeding and dysmenorrhea to treatment of premenstrual syndrome, menstrual migraines, acne, and hirsutism.
Here is Bayer's earlier statement:
Modern COCs [combined oral contraceptives] afford not only excellent contraception but also a variety of non-contraceptive benefits ranging from regulation and reduction of both menstrual bleeding and dysmenorrhoea to treatment of premenstrual syndrome, menstrual migraines, acne and hirsutism.
Separated at birth
The two papers reach the same conclusion, that research showing heightened risk with Yaz-type pills is "flawed." First the SOGC:
Critical analysis of the 2 studies responsible for this adverse publicity, however, suggests that the conclusions could have resulted from methodologic flaws and/or misinterpretation of findings, a view shared by the FDA.
And Bayer:
Critical analysis of the two studies responsible for this adverse publicity, however, suggests that the conclusions could well have resulted from methodological flaws and/or misinterpretation of findings
The two statements were written by the same lead author, Robert Reid, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. The Bayer statement (to its credit) does disclose that it was written at Bayer's behest and that "authors will, at one time or another, have received sponsorship and/or funding from one or more manufacturers of contraceptive drugs and products." But for some reason, the SOGC statement contains no such disclosure.

Worse, the dozen authors whose names are attached to the SOGC statement leave themselves open to allegations of plagiarism -- they are clearly presenting the work as their own when it was obviously developed mostly by the Bayer team, which published first.

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Hat tip to Kate Johnson.