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More thoughts on commercial support and CME

This post courtesy of Anne Taylor-Vaisey: From the February 10 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine:

Steinbrook R. Commercial support and continuing medical education. N Engl J Med 2005; 352(6):534-535.

Excerpt: The majority of the financial support for continuing medical education (CME) in the United States comes from drug companies and other commercial entities. Total commercial support more than tripled between 1998 and 2003 - from $302 million to $971 million. CME should aim to improve health care and should be totally independent of commercial interests, ! but there are long-standing concerns that it often involves marketing as well as education. For example, about 100 accredited U.S. providers of CME are for-profit medical education and communication companies, or MECCs. They are hired by pharmaceutical firms to organize meetings, find speakers for grand rounds and symposia, and develop written materials. MECCs receive about 90 percent of their income from commercial support.1

CME that is balanced and free from bias is in the overall interests of physicians and patients. Yet given the underlying economics of CME and the small size of the ACCME, the goal of independence from commercial interests may be difficult to achieve. More direct approaches might be to limit the percentage of commercial support that is permitted for a CME activity or for the ACCME ! to stop accrediting MECCs, as some have suggested. If the new standards make support for CME seem less valuable to industry, companies may decrease their support. If they do, the medical profession may have to assume more of the true cost of its own continuing education.

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