Debate Over Pharmaceutical Funding For Continuing Medical Education

June 25, 2010

Doctor Giving a Medical PresentationThe New York Times reports that the University of Michigan Medical School is the first to announce that, beginning next January, it will no longer take any funding from drug and medical device manufacturers to pay for coursework that doctors must take in order to renew their medical licenses.

University officials voted to eliminate commercial funding in an effort to promote fairness and balance within education. Dr. James O. Woolliscroft, dean of Michigan's medical school, said he "wanted education to be free from bias, to be based on the best evidence and a balanced view of the topic under discussion."

With more than 700 accredited medical education providers in the United States, commercial financing within education has been under increasing scrutiny from academics, medical associations, ethicists and lawmakers. The New York Times points out that in 2007, spending on continuing medical education courses peaked at $2.5 billion nationwide. A record $1.2 billion came from industry funding. The Journal Sentinel adds that a study showed that for every dollar drug companies spent for medical education, $3.56 in revenue was generated for the industry.

In efforts to further curb industry bias, the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education said it will not allow pharmaceutical industry employees to present at the American Heart Associate's annual Scientific Sessions, one of the largest medical meetings in the world. The accrediting body for postgraduate medical education also recently announced that it would no longer give doctors credit for attending medical product research presentations by industry employees. Furthermore, another article from The New York Times shows that a recent Congressional report calls on medical journals, schools and the National Institutes of Health to enforce stricter policies on medical ghostwriting, the practice in which researchers sign on as authors to articles that have been developed by third-party medical education companies.

These new restrictions have causes heated public debate. Supporters feels the changes are not enough; whereas, others say the policies will cut physicians off from vital scientific knowledge. "To rule out people who may know the most is ill-advised and counterproductive," said George Lundberg, former editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, to the Journal Sentinel.

Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin


"Debate Over Industry Role In Educating Doctors," nytimes.com, June 23, 2010, Natasha Singer and Duff Wilson

"Drug firms banished from medical talks," jsonline.com, June 16, 2010, John Fauber

"Report Urges More Curbs on Medical Ghostwriting," nytimes.com, June 24, 2010, Natasha Singer

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