Profit motive in CME extends beyond pharmaceutical industry support

Posted June 14, 2010

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Regarding "Specialty societies set new policy on drug company influence" (link): Having specialty societies disclose any support from industry is a good idea. Clearly, industry has a strong profit motive to support continuing medical education.

But the profit motive in CME exists even when the pharmaceutical industry is not involved. Almost weekly I get in the mail a brochure offering CME. Some is provided by medical schools on their campuses or by hospitals on their premises. Some is offered on cruise ships traveling to a Caribbean island or to Europe. The practical knowledge offered by these CME "mills" is of questionable value.

Many doctors believe that CME has become a profitable business. And doctors are the perfect group to exploit. Not wanting to risk being uninformed on the latest procedures and therapies, they feel compelled to spend money and time on CME that may not be worthwhile but is necessary for relicensure or for maintenance of hospital privileges.

Many CME courses are offered in the form of board review courses for re-credentialing exams. These courses cost several hundred dollars and time away from the office.

Clearly, CME has many problems. Public disclosure of pharmaceutical support may be neither the most important nor the most difficult to resolve.

Edward J. Volpintesta, MD, Bethel, Conn.

The print version of this content appeared in the link issue of American Medical News.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2010/06/14/edlt0614.htm.

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