Task Force Meeting: What if commercial support went away?

You've probably thought about it, but at the National Task Force on CME Provider/Industry Collaboration conference, they actually talked about it out loud in the Schickman lecture led by George Mejicano, MD, University of Wisconsin Medical School, and Marsha Jackson, PhD, American College of Cardiology.

Mejicano first pointed out some recent trends, including the facts that, while overall commercial support dollars continue to rise, the percent of income commercial support represents is actually shrinking. And while advertising and exhibit dollars have doubled since 1998, they too have shrunk as a percentage of income. He also pointed out that MECCs get the highest proportion of their income from commercial support, while medical specialty societies get the lions share of their income from advertising and exhibits income.

Then they pointed to some of the headlines concerning pharma that have run in the papers in recent years. Needless to say, they're less than flattering, and contain words like "greed," "fraud," "lie," and "sham." They don't point to all the good stuff industry support does, like improve patient care and provide access to education for healthcare workers.

The session leaders then asked the various industry segments via ARS what they think would happen if commercial support went away tomorrow. CME providers' most popular initial response was, "how will we ever be able to continue our CME program?" Pharma folks' most popular first response was, "physicians won't pay for their own CME," closely followed by "how will we get our message out to MDs." Hospital CME providers said the most likely impact for them would be fewer CME programs, while MECCs said it most likely would cause their company to move to a different line of business. Societies agreed that the cost of CME to their members would increase, while med schools said CME would be increasingly directed toward their own faculty. Not surprisingly, 64 percent of the audience said they were currently prepared for the possibility of commercial support completely going away. Surprisingly, at least to me, was the 27 percent who said they were prepared now for that possibility.

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