A good reason to consider banning pharma sponsored CME

Pharmaceutical companies sponsor continuing medical education (CME) for physicians in order to boost the use of their own products. Pharma CME staff used to report to the marketing function within pharma companies. They justified their budgets by demonstrating a return on investment –which ultimately translated into the number of incremental prescriptions written. In recent years, most companies have shifted CME out of marketing in order to mollify regulators, but the intent to earn a return is still present.

Now the very concept of pharma-sponsored CME is under threat from those who are concerned about the extensive influence of the pharmaceutical industry on clinical practice.

A lot of physicians like pharma-sponsored CME. After all it’s free and nicely produced. A lot of companies (and universities) make a good living producing these materials. They don’t want to see the goose that lays the golden egg fly off.

Today PharmaLive reported on a survey of physician attitudes (Manhattan Research Survey Finds That Physicians Overwhelmingly Support Commercially-Funded Continuing Medical Education)

In an effort to better understand the positions of those who actually use continuing medical education, Manhattan Research surveyed physicians on their opinions with regard to their use and the potential bias of industry-funded programs. The Manhattan Research study reports that only 8% of physicians who participated in CME believe that it is biased…

If that’s really the case then it demonstrates that only 8 percent of physicians know what they’re talking about. Pharma-sponsored CME is definitely biased. For starters, it tends to be biased in favor of drug treatment, and in favor of treatment with newer, more expensive drugs that may not be better than older, cheaper ones. Not every single course is biased, but it’s silly to assert that bias isn’t present.

January 27, 2009

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