If the pharmaceutical industry won’t pay for CME, who will?

The purging of drug companies from continuing medical education courses continues.

Psychiatrist Daniel Carlat points to what’s happening at the University of Wisconsin, where company-funded CME lectures conveniently left out side effects of the medications that were mentioned.

For instance, in a Pfizer-sponsored course on smoking cessation, not one of Pfizer-marketed Chantix’s many side effects were mentioned.

CME is a big money industry, and in the cited case, Pfizer contributed some $12.3 million to the University of Wisconsin’s courses.

So, if medical schools were to ban the drug industry from funding their CME, who will pay for them? Cash-strapped medical schools? Likely not.

It’s probably going to fall on individual physicians who, in many states, need CME credits to maintain their licenses. I suspect that CME will become significantly more expensive to attend in the near future.

Internist Matthew Mintz gives his take on this question, saying, “If we don’t want the industry to be so involved with our health care, then someone else is going to have to pay. Are you, the taxpayer, willing to pay more in taxes to fund this? Not just doctors, but the public has gotten a “free lunch” for a long time. Are we now willing to pay for that lunch?”

Merrill Goozner also adds, in trying to teach me some economics, “Whether drug companies finance CME or physicians pay out of their own pockets, the cost gets passed along to patients, taxpayers and employers in the form of the higher insurance premiums and co-pays, which in turn finance the higher drug prices and higher office fees needed to pay for CME . . it would be better for the independence of CME if the profession cuts out the middleman and patients and insurers reimbursed doctors directly for their CME expenses.”

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  • Dr. IKE

    Chiropractors have always paid for continuing education hours, though I’m certain costs are helped by vendor sponsors displaying their goods on the way into the classroom areas.

    Sorry, looks like our medical brethren are heading that way, too.

  • Bad Medicine, Good Solutions

    Really? The physician will cover it? Not likely. The patient in some hidden fashion will. I see this as part of doing the business of medicine. Put a fee into each office visit and have it be paid per patient at the same time as the copay.

    Do it openly, too, so the patient knows what bureaucracy their money has to help fund.

  • Dr. Matthew Mintz

    If we ban pharma from sponsoring CME, there is a huge void to fill. It is unlikely the individual physicians will pay for this. There are some solutions.
    See my recent post on this at http://www.drmintz.com.

  • Anonymous

    i have always paid for my cme, when I get industry funded cme it was always a little bit less useful to me so i pay..

    uptodate is where i get almost of all of my cme.s

  • Anonymous

    this is no big deal. CME cost for non-pharma CME is not a huge expense. I usually spend about 300 to 400 a year.

    The costs could be much lower if docs got the cme accreditors to make it easier for local medical society to accredit CME programs. Some of the requirements for accreditation of CME are silly and to the extent that they have any effect at all only render it more vacuous.

  • Anonymous

    The pharmaceutical industry doesn't have to support CME. It can support individual doctor's websites instead. Then what? It's not going to do anything to improve objectivity.

    Dr. Oz's site is a good example. He has the image of being the "good doctor". Yet his site is supported by the pharmaceutical industry. In exchange, sponsored pharmaceutical companies can send prospective candidates info a drug or drugs that maybe suitable to them. Clever but "sly" marketing…


  • Frank Drackman

    There’s plenty of free CME available on the Internets, and if you’re quick you can do most states requirements in about 1/2 an hour…or if you’re conscientious, take an ACLS course.. the Conference thing is just a tax scam, a way to stick it to Joe Q. Public, the way they stick it to us, now excuse me, gotta fill out my RSVP for “Frontiers in Constipation”


  • jktwaw

    who cares who pays? perhaps it is the requirement of cme for licensure which is misguided. any proof that better patient outcomes occur from cme certified providers? are malpractice rates higher or lower in n.y, co., vt. where cme is not required?

  • Anonymous

    The requirements for CME are just rent seeking by medical schools. In my field they are a waste of time.