Medical School Shuns Industry Funding of Continuing Medical Education

The University of Michigan Medical School will stop taking money from the <"">drug and <"">medical device industry to pay for continuing medical education (CME), according to a report in The New York Times. The school is the first in the country to implement such a policy.

Physicians must attend CME conferences in order to keep their licenses, and many drug and medical device companies “generously” fund these courses. According to the Times, in 2007, spending on continuing medical education courses amounted to $2.5 billion nationwide, with a whopping $1.2 billion coming from industry funding.

But industry funding of post -graduate medical education has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years. Critics are concerned that drug and device makers might use their funding to influence the content of courses, thereby turning them into promotional vehicles for their products. According to the Times, not much research has been done to ascertain how much bias might be present in industry-funded courses.

Critics like to point to one 2001 study which suggested that every dollar spent by a drug company on doctor education activities generated $3.56 in increased revenue. According to another report published in 2009 by the American Medical Association Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs, industry-supported CME programs tend to focus on drug therapies and give more favorable treatment to sponsors’ products than do programs that are not funded by commercial sponsors.

Some organizations have already taken steps to limit the influence the industry has over CME content. The Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education recently announced that it would no longer give doctors credit for attending medical product research presentations by industry employees. Because of this, pharmaceutical industry employees will not be allowed to make medical education presentations later this year at the one of the largest medical meetings in the world, the American Heart Association’s annual Scientific Sessions.

The policy has sparked debate. According to The New York Times, some doctors say it will unfairly cut physicians off from scientific knowledge. Others would like to see even stricter rules.

Officials at the University of Michigan Medical School told the Times that they voted to eliminate commercial funding in an effort to promote fairness and balance within education. The policy becomes effective in January. The school had been receiving about a $1 million a year in commercial payments, the Times said.

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