Medical schools have a long history of organizing and providing Continuing Medical Education (CME), which helps professionals in the medical field stay updated new and developing areas in their domain. Collaboration between physicians and industry is necessary for residents and trainees as they learn about the working of pharmaceutical companies, which they are hardly exposed to in their training.
Today, CME is a multi-billion-dollar industry. It helps medical professionals maintain competence and stay informed about the latest developments in medical science. In the United States, most physicians are required to participate in CME activities to maintain their medical license, hospital privileges, and specialty board certifications. Moreover, having good quality of CME is beneficial for the patients at large. It results in rapid advances in medical science by increasing pressure on physicians stay cognizant of their field.
Declining commercial fundingOver the recent years, medical schools and teaching hospitals have become increasingly dependent on industry support to sponsor CME activities. Commercial funding from pharmaceutical and medical device companies is an important source of CME funds. Commercial participation also ensures that physicians will be well versed with the latest advancement and can serve their patients better. Besides, the public perception of pharmaceutical companies is like that of a tobacco company, which keeps pharmaceutical executives awake at night. Giving CME funding improves this image and in addition, increases exposure to healthcare and physicians.
However, there has been a decline in this trend of commercial funding in CME lately. Regulations have been imposed on commercial funding of CME activities because they can be easily used to change prescription patterns and stimulate sales. Though some of these measures have been taken with good intentions, the recent regulatory changes make it hard for companies to fund CME even if there is no alternate motive. Some industry professionals feel that prescription patterns tend to get biased when pharmaceutical companies sponsor medical education activities. Due to mounting pressure on the industry and increasing regulations, there has been a downward trend in commercial funding of medical education.
This declining trend is a bad sign for pharmaceutical companies, medical education companies, and in the long run, for patients. Saying no to commercial funding is the wrong solution. Instead such bias can be managed by putting correct checks and balances on the grant management process by pharmaceutical companies and the medical community.