Did Medscape use CME to illegally promote off-label use of drugs for rheumatoid arthritis?

The controversy surrounding drug industry influence in continuing medical education continues to grow.

Merrill Goozer talks about a recent case where the Medscape, the physician internet portal site, is alleged to have illegally conspired with Amgen to promote the off-label use of Aranesp and Embrel. According the to complaint, “The scheme was to increase market share through the covert commercialization of CME programs.”

I recently cited internal medicine physician Robert Centor in a USA Today op-ed who said that, by “allowing industry funding, doctors tend to receive educational lectures ‘targeting diseases that require expensive treatments,’ and that this ‘will increase awareness and indirectly increase the use of (the funders’) drug.’”

I understand that removing industry funding for CME would make many courses prohibitively expensive, and indeed, there are legitimate courses backed by pharmaceutical dollars that are genuinely helpful for practicing physicians.

But if the allegations involving Medscape, a site that many doctors use for medical education, are true, there may be no other option but to completely purge drug makers from CME to ensure the elimination of bias.

Legitimate courses may also fall, and to some, that may be an acceptable price to pay.

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