To quantify the influence of financial conflict of interest (COI) payments on the reporting of clinical results for robotic surgery.
Data Sources and Study Selection:
A systematic search (Ovid MEDLINE databases) was conducted (May 2017) to identify randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and observational studies comparing the efficacy of the da Vinci robot on clinical outcomes. Financial COI data for authors (per study) were determined using open payments database.
Main Outcomes and Measures:
Primary outcomes assessed were receipt of financial COI payments and overall conclusion reported between robotic versus comparative approach. Quality/risk of bias was assessed using Newcastle-Ottawa Scale (NOS)/Cochrane risk of bias tool. Disclosure discrepancies were also analyzed.
Data Extraction and Synthesis:
Study characteristics, surgical subspecialty, methodological assessment, reporting of disclosure statements, and study findings dual abstracted. The association of the amount of financial support received as a predictor of reporting positive findings associated robotic surgery was assessed at various cut-offs of dollar amount received by receiver operating curve (ROC).
Thirty-three studies were included, 9 RCTs and 24 observational studies. There was a median, 111 patients (range 10 to 6420) across studies. A little more than half (17/33) had a conclusion statement reporting positive results in support of robotic surgery, with 48% (16/33) reporting results not in favor [equivocal: 12/33 (36%), negative: 4/33 (12%)]. Nearly all (91%) studies had authors who received financial COI payments, with a median of $3364.46 per study (range $9 to $1,775,378.03). ROC curve demonstrated that studies receiving greater than $9557.31 (cutpoint) were more likely to report positive robotic surgery results (sensitivity: 0.65, specificity: 0.81, area under the curve: 0.73). Studies with financial COI payment greater than this amount were more likely to report beneficial outcomes with robotic surgery [(78.57% vs 31.58%, P = 0.013) with an odds ratio of 2.07 (confidence interval: 0.47–3.67; P = 0.011)]. Overall, studies were high quality/low risk of bias [median NOS: 8 (range 5 to 9)]; Cochrane risk: “low risk” (9/9, 100%)].
Conclusion and Relevance:
Financial COI sponsorship appears to be associated with a higher likelihood of studies reporting a benefit of robotic surgery. Our findings suggest a dollar amount where financial payments influence reported clinical results, a concept that challenges the current guidelines, which do not account for the amount of COI funding received.