Industry Strongly Supports Continuing Medical Education

The Journal of the American Medical Association
April 18, 2001

by Alan F. Holmer, JD, of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA):

"Industry-supported conferences, seminars and symposia are helping physicians to provide the best, most appropriate, and most up-to-date health care for their patients. They help to ensure the widespread adoption of new medicines and technologies that save lives, cure disease, relieve pain, and allow individuals to lead longer, healthier and more productive lives."

"Separating Continuing Medical Education from Pharmaceutical Marketing" By Arnold S. Relman, MD, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine:

"The pharmaceutical industry has gone too far. It is assuming a role in continuing medical education (CME) that is inappropriate for an industry with a vested interest in selling prescription drugs. Worse, many medical education institutions not only allow the industry's encroachments but also welcome and even solicit pharmaceutical company participation in programs that should be the profession's sole responsibility."

Comment: All physicians that accept pharmaceutical stipends for participating in CME programs claim that their presentation is not influenced by their sponsor, but do you really believe that the pharmaceutical firm would keep that person on their speakers' bureau if he or she did not support the sponsor's product? The "best" pharmaceutical for a given condition varies depending on who is speaking, but it always has a positive correlation with the sponsor for the session. Also, the "best" drug is always on patent, as the older drugs seem to lose their clinical value the day the patent runs out. And to think that hapless widows, living on Social Security, are helping to fund "free" CME for wealthy physicians whenever they have their prescriptions filled. Dr. Relman is correct when he says that "CME must be clearly separated from pharmaceutical marketing." We need fundamental structural reform in the funding of our entire health care system.

One more quote that is apropos: At the end of a recent CME lecture I attended, the speaker said to the CME Director, "Where's (the pharmaceutical rep); she has my check!"