Background: The purpose of this study was to analyze the frequency and nature of self-reported conflict-of-interest disclosures in the plastic surgery literature and to compare these findings to the Physician Payments Sunshine Act database. Methods: All articles published from August of 2013 through December of 2013 in four major plastic surgery journals were analyzed. For every publication, the conflict-of-interest disclosure statement for each investigator was reviewed. These statements were then compared to transactions of value for each investigator as reported by biomedical companies in the Sunshine Act database. An analysis was performed to identify and characterize specific factors associated with conflict-of-interest disclosures. Results: A total of 1002 independent investigators/authors were identified. Of these, 90 investigators (9 percent) self-reported a conflict of interest. In contrast, a total of 428 authors (42.7 percent) were found to have received transactions of value from a biomedical company according to the Sunshine Act database. Conversely, a total of 22 authors (2.2 percent) self-reported a conflict of interest but were not found to have received transactions of value in the Sunshine Act database. Our analysis found that (1) academic investigators, (2) transactions of value in excess of $500, and (3) publishing articles related to the sponsoring biomedical company were all statistically associated with reporting conflicts of interest (p < 0.0001). Conclusions: Discordance exists between investigator/authors self-reporting in scientific journals and the government-mandated reporting of conflicts of interest by industry. Factors associated with conflict-of-interest disclosure include academic status, transaction amount, and article content related to the sponsoring biomedical company.
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