Saturday, June 26, 2010

More CME News, and an Important Correction

In a comment on the previous post:

--Dr. Michael Kirsch kindly calls our attention to a recent New York Times report by Natasha Singer and Duff Wilson:

--which in turn provides us with important news on the CME front as well as a critical correction to the comments I offered in that earlier post.

The news item is that the University of Michigan announced that as of next January, they will become the first medical school to accept no drug/device industry funding for any school-sponsored CME (continuing medical education) program. In taking this lead, Michigan follows its earlier trend in being one of the first schools to implement a strong "drug reps off campus" policy. (Somehow Stanford hired a better PR agent and so got tons of publicity when they did the same thing more than a year after schools like Michigan and Wisconsin had taken the first steps.)

In HOOKED I wrote that the average medical school, as of a couple of years back, received about 50% of overall CME funding from industry. That sum varied widely; some conferences had virtually no industry funding, which in turn meant that other conferences were funded almost totally by industry. Michigan estimates it will be giving up about $1M of funding annually by its new policy. That shows what most med schools have at stake in the relationship with industry.

Now for the correction. I ran my mouth last post about the different types of talks that industry speakers might give, and offered my concerns that by banning all talks by industry speakers, the recent rules of the ACCME might actually have gone too far. So I am pleased that the Times report corrected my misimpression. The Times reporters state that the rules are indeed designed to respect the distinction that I was worried about. That is, scientists or physicians hired full time by industry can speak all they wish to about any basic science research. What they cannot talk about is a product of their company. I think that's a reasonable dividing line. By the time a research idea or concept has gotten so far down the pipeline that there's an actual product being readied for the market, there ought to be sufficient published literature for a neutral sientist to be found who can assess its pros and cons. There seems little danger that physicians will be deprived of up-to-date but unbiased information merely because a company employee cannot give that talk.

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