In recent years, there has been growing concern about the impact of conflicts of interest on the generation, interpretation, and dissemination of evidence in health and biomedicine. Particular attention has been paid to conflicts of interest in the development of evidence reviews and clinical practice guidelines for health professionals, because conflicts of interest in this context pose a threat to evidence-based medicine and may contribute to the use of unnecessary tests and treatments. However, little attention has been paid to the subject of conflicts of interest in the synthesis and dissemination of evidence for patients. As a first step in addressing this gap, we have conducted a conceptual analysis in which we have mapped the types of conflicts of interest that may be relevant to the synthesis and dissemination of evidence for patients. In this paper, we will describe our taxonomy, present a critical analysis of the possible effects, if any, of these conflicts of interest, and outline possible strategies for minimising harm. We anticipate that this conceptual analysis will facilitate a better understanding of conflicts of interest as they pertain to the synthesis and dissemination of evidence for patients and, in particular, their role as a driver of the problem of overdiagnosis and overtreatment.
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