McCoy MS, Emanuel EJ. Why there are no “potential” conflicts of interest. JAMA 2017;317(17):1721-1722
The notion of a potential conflict of interest (COI) reflects the mistaken view that a COI exists only when bias or harm actually occurs. Distinctions between potential and actual COI are rooted in a basic misunderstanding of the concept of a COI and its ethical significance. These invidious distinctions should be avoided. A COI exists when a secondary interest has the potential to bias a physician’s or a researcher’s primary interest in pursuing patient well-being and generalizable knowledge. Achieving greater conceptual clarity is essential to develop policies that effectively regulate COIs.