I decided to start this blog in order to follow up on some buzz generated by a recent New York Times op-ed in which I recommend that industry-sponsored CME activities no longer receive accreditation from the ACCME.
I've received dozens of responses, mostly supportive. A recurring theme of these comments is: don't blame only the drug companies, blame the doctors too. The Times printed this letter to the editor saying exactly that.
It's true, everybody who stands to gain is complicit in this enterprise. The companies get a uniquely effective marketing vehicle, the medical education communication companies (MECCs) get millions in educational grants, the ACCME gets funding to continue its mission, hired-gun physician speakers get cash, prestige, networking opportunities, impact, etc...., and the doctors who attend the programs get free education. Who in their right mind would want to spoil the party?
Our patients, for one. Industry-supported CME always downplays the dangers of any product being sponsored. Sometimes, these dangers are trivial, as in the case of SSRIs. Other times, these dangers include diabetes, obesity, and high cholesterol, as in the case of Zyprexa.
The point is that we can never trust commercial CME, because of its inherent conflict of interest: it is education designed to encourage the audience to use more of the sponsor's product.
Please join me in my crusade. If you have seen any examples of obvious commercial bias in educational activities, let me know. Together, we can sniff out the worst offenders, and report them to the ACCME, to the Senate Finance Committee, which released this report , and to whoever else has an interest in improving the ethics of medicine in America.
Thanks very much for your interest.