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.”