Alcohol, Cardiovascular Disease and Industry Funding: A Co-authorship Network Analysis of Systematic Reviews
Alcohol’s effects on heart health is the site of a major scientific controversy. The present authors conducted a co-authorship network analysis of systematic reviews on the impacts on alcohol on cardiovascular disease (CVD) in order to investigate patterns of co-authorship in the literature, with particular attention given to industry funding.
This study used Epistemonikos to identify systematic reviews. Review characteristics, influential authors, co-authorship subnetworks, prior histories of alcohol industry funding, study outcomes and citations were investigated.
60 systematic reviews with 231 unique authors met the inclusion criteria. 14 systematic reviews were undertaken by authors with histories of alcohol industry funding, including 5 that were funded directly by the alcohol industry itself. All 14 such reviews identified a cardioprotective effect of alcohol. These formed distinct co-authorship subnetworks within the literature. Of reviews by authors with no prior histories of alcohol industry funding, the findings were mixed, with 54% (25/46) concluding there was evidence of health protective effects. These two groups of reviews differed in other respects. Those with industry funding were more likely to study broader outcomes such as ‘cardiovascular disease’ or ‘coronary heart disease’ as opposed to specific CVD issues such as hypertension or stroke (93% [13/14] versus 41% [19/46]) (chi-squared 12.4, p < 0.001) and have more included studies (mean of 29 versus 20). They were also more widely cited by others. Over time the proportions of systematic reviews on CVD and alcohol undertaken by authors with no prior histories of alcohol industry funding has increased.
Systematic reviews undertaken by authors with histories of alcohol industry funding were more likely to study broader outcomes, and be cited more widely, and exclusively reported favorable conclusions.