The American Medical Association's main ethics committee (CEJA, or the Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs) has released this report on medical education declaring that doctors and medical institutions "must not accept industry funding to support professional education activities."
To quote further from the report's executive summary:
"... Medicine must ensure that the values and core commitments of the profession protect the integrity of professional education. It must strive to deliver scientifically objective and clinically relevant information to individuals across the learning continuum. To promote continued innovation and improvement in patient care, medicine must sustain ongoing, productive relationships with the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device companies. However, industry support of professional education has raised concerns that threaten the integrity of medicine’s educational function."
The report goes on to recommend the banning of industry-supported CME, but does allow for one exception, which I found quite reasonable:
"Exception should be made for technical training when new diagnostic or therapeutic devices and techniques are introduced. Once expertise in the use of previously new devices has developed within the professional community, continuing industry involvement in educating practitioners is no longer warranted."
This would allow, for example, companies to pay for orthopedists to train surgeons in how to fit the latest artificial hips, or to hire cardiologists to teach physicians how to program the newest pacemakers. These are examples of the few cases in which the companies have special expertise that can't be learned via standard educational outlets, such as professional journals. Note that this exception does not apply to pharmaceuticals, because doctors can best learn about drug prescribing by reading and evaluating the medical evidence.
What are the chances that the AMA will adopt this recommendation? Here is a list of the many 2007 and 2006 CEJA recommendations which were approved, indicating that the organization is likely to take this new report very, very seriously.