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Dangers of neglecting non-financial conflicts of interest in health and medicine
  1. Miriam Wiersma1,
  2. Ian Kerridge1,2,
  3. Wendy Lipworth1
  1. 1 Sydney Health Ethics, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2 Haematology Department, Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Miriam Wiersma, Sydney Health Ethics, Level 1, Building 1, Medical Foundation Building, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia; miriam.wiersma{at}


Non-financial interests, and the conflicts of interest that may result from them, are frequently overlooked in biomedicine. This is partly due to the complex and varied nature of these interests, and the limited evidence available regarding their prevalence and impact on biomedical research and clinical practice. We suggest that there are no meaningful conceptual distinctions, and few practical differences, between financial and non-financial conflicts of interest, and accordingly, that both require careful consideration. Further, a better understanding of the complexities of non-financial conflicts of interest, and their entanglement with financial conflicts of interest, may assist in the development of a more sophisticated approach to all forms of conflicts of interest.

  • ethics
  • research ethics

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  • Contributors This paper was written by MW (research assistant at Sydney Health Ethics), while employed on a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)-funded grant on conflict of interest in health and medicine, in collaboration with IK (professor of bioethics and medicine at Sydney Health Ethics, and internationally recognised scholar in bioethics and the philosophy of medicine) and WL (senior research fellow and lead chief investigator on two NHMRC project grants, including ‘Managing conflicts of interest in biomedicine’). MW wrote the first draft of this manuscript. All authors contributed equally to its conceptualisation and to subsequent drafts. MW is the guarantor of the article.

  • Funding Department of Health, Australian Government: National Health and Medical Research Council APP1059732.

  • Competing interests All authors have completed the ICMJE uniform disclosure form at and declare: all authors had financial support from the National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC, grant number APP1059732) for the submitted work; no financial relationships with any organisations that might have an interest in the submitted work in the previous three years; no other relationships or activities that could appear to have influenced the submitted work.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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