As industry funding for medical education fades, new opportunities for improvements arise

March 21, 2012

Public scrutiny and the threat of government regulation are leading to a decline in industry-sponsored funding of accredited continuing medical education (CME) for physicians, and this decline represents an opportunity to make CME more relevant, cost-effective and less open to bias, wrote a group of physicians from the San Francisco VA Medical Center and the University of California, San Francisco.

In a "Perspective" in the March 22 issue of the , the authors predicted the decline will continue, with a "sea change toward greater restriction" on commercial funding of CME courses, which doctors take to maintain competence and professional certification and to keep up with new developments in the medical field.

"There is a long history of the pharmaceutical and medical device industries supporting CME," said lead author Michael A. Steinman, MD, a physician at SFVAMC and an associate professor of medicine at UCSF. "This started out with practices in the 1970s and 80s that today would be considered highly abusive, such as junkets to Caribbean islands under the guise of education."

While such overt abuses are now much rarer, he said, the medical industry today provides about half the funding for CME in the United States each year, through sponsoring educational events put on by independent educational organizations.

"Even though the practices are less egregious," Steinman said, "there is still concern that this financial support has the potential to bias the content that learners receive, and therefore change the practice of medicine in a way that serves the interests of industry."

However, wrote the "Perspective" authors, new restrictions on funding have been put in place by both the pharmaceutical industry and physicians' organizations, and several universities have totally banned commercially sponsored CME.

"The train has left the station," said Steinman. "It's not a question of if industry funding will be restricted, but of how and how much."

In their "Perspective," Steinman and his co-authors wrote that this steady decrease in commercial support represents an opportunity to improve the quality of CME while making it more relevant to physicians' day-to-day professional needs.

"There's increasing evidence that the traditional, high-cost method of bringing in people to hear a lecture in a hotel ballroom is not the best way to get doctors to learn and to change their practice," said Steinman. "CME providers are moving to more interactive forms of , such as online learning and practice improvement activities at the point of patient care."

Besides being more cost-effective, he said, "these methods make the information more relevant and more likely to stick."

In addition, Steinman said, such methods are less open to conflicts of interest: "Under the current system of program-based courses, if I'm a more traditional CME provider, I know that some courses are going to be more attractive for a pharmaceutical manufacturer to support than others – such as a lecture on the latest treatments for a particular disease that happens to feature a medication made by that company."

In contrast, the newer, interactive model of CME often involves "going back and auditing your own practice, finding out how you're doing and figuring out ways of doing it better. Not only are we minimizing potential biases, we're more directly learning how to take better care of patients."

Explore further: Health professionals appear concerned about bias in commercially funded continuing medical education

Related Stories

Health professionals appear concerned about bias in commercially funded continuing medical education

May 9, 2011
Commercial funding of continuing medical education (CME) and the potential for bias appear to concern many health care practitioners and researchers, but many reported being unwilling to pay higher fees to eliminate or offset ...

ESC: In the current context, industry support for continuing medical education remains essential

February 29, 2012
In a groundbreaking White Paper published today in the European Heart Journal, the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) has set out its perspective on the relationship between the healthcare industry and professional medical ...

Seniors' adverse drug reactions need better prevention strategies

August 29, 2011
Medical practitioners need to implement new strategies for decreasing adverse drugs reactions among seniors, conclude the authors of a scientific literature review led by Michael Steinman, MD, a physician and geriatrics researcher ...

Frailty not a factor in adverse drug reactions among seniors, study finds

April 7, 2011
Contrary to popular belief among physicians, frailty in elderly patients is not associated with an increased risk of adverse reactions to medications, according to a study led by Michael Steinman, MD, a geriatrician at the ...

Recommended for you

Pickled in 'cognac', Chopin's heart gives up its secrets

November 26, 2017
The heart of Frederic Chopin, among the world's most cherished musical virtuosos, may finally have given up the cause of his untimely death.

Sugar industry withheld evidence of sucrose's health effects nearly 50 years ago

November 21, 2017
A U.S. sugar industry trade group appears to have pulled the plug on a study that was producing animal evidence linking sucrose to disease nearly 50 years ago, researchers argue in a paper publishing on November 21 in the ...

Female researchers pay more attention to sex and gender in medicine

November 7, 2017
When women participate in a medical research paper, that research is more likely to take into account the differences between the way men and women react to diseases and treatments, according to a new study by Stanford researchers.

Drug therapy from lethal bacteria could reduce kidney transplant rejection

August 3, 2017
An experimental treatment derived from a potentially deadly microorganism may provide lifesaving help for kidney transplant patients, according to an international study led by investigators at Cedars-Sinai.

Exploring the potential of human echolocation

June 25, 2017
People who are visually impaired will often use a cane to feel out their surroundings. With training and practice, people can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate ...

Team eradicates hepatitis C in 10 patients following lifesaving transplants from infected donors

April 30, 2017
Ten patients at Penn Medicine have been cured of the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) following lifesaving kidney transplants from deceased donors who were infected with the disease. The findings point to new strategies for increasing ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.