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Rev Epidemiol Sante Publique. 2011 Aug;59(4):233-42. doi: 10.1016/j.respe.2010.12.011. Epub 2011 Jul 14.

[Medical opinion leaders conflict of interests: effects of disclosures on the trust of the public and general practitioners].

[Article in French]

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Université Nice Sophia-Antipolis, institut d'administration des entreprises, Nice cedex, France.



Key medical opinion leaders influence the behaviors of physicians and patients. By law, they have to disclose their interests with pharmaceutical companies when they communicate in the media. Up to now, it appears that no study has explored the effect of opinion leaders' disclosures despite their potential impact on public health and economy. The study objective was to assess the effects of opinion leaders' disclosures of interest on the public and general practitioners' trust in opinion leader by comparison with the overall medical community.


In an experimental setting, three opinion leader profiles were built that differed only by the disclosure of their interests (hidden vs. weak vs. strong interests). One of the three profiles was randomly assigned to the subjects of two groups: 67 students and 60 general practitioners. According to an Anova analysis, the main effects and interactions of the disclosure of interests, of the message recipients, and of the assessed targets on the level of trust were measured.


The results show that the average level of trust expressed by general practitioners was lower than that expressed by the general public. The level of trust in the opinion leader was lower than that of the overall medical community. The level of trust of exposed subjects fell much lower with stronger disclosed interests. While the general public did not distinguish trust between opinion leaders and the overall medical community, practitioners showed a significantly lower level of trust in opinion leaders with increasingly strong levels of disclosed interests.


These study results refute the assertion that public trust would be reduced by the disclosure of interests. They reinforce the importance of the "who judges who" and "which kind of disclosure impacts who ?" effects and draw attention to further research on the role of social interactions in both mass and group communications.

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