There are three excellent commentaries in the current issue of JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association). Of most relevance to CME is Dr. Arnold Relman's review of recent actions by the AMA and the AAMC relating to industry-physician relationships. He calls for a joint meeting of the AMA and the AAMC to come up with a new direction for CME, and believes that only physicians should be invited, because "There is no reason that the pharmaceutical industry or its proxies" should be making decisions about the future of CME.
Relman concludes with the following eloquent call for an end to industry involvement in accredited medical education:
"It is time for the leadership of the medical profession to make clear to an increasingly skeptical public that physicians, and not the pharmaceutical industry, are in charge of the education of physicians. There is an evident and very important distinction between accredited professional education and the information about new drug products the pharmaceutical industry distributes to physicians for marketing purposes. The responsibility for medical education should be entirely in the hands of the medical profession and funding should not compromise, or even call into question, the integrity and independence of what is taught or of the physicians who teach. Marketing drugs, on the other hand, is industry's job. Industry likes to call this education but it is not. It is marketing.
Some firms may want to assist the medical profession with educational programs in areas not directly related to drugs. However well-intentioned, that would be unwise. The public relies on the medical profession to evaluate the products that industry wants to sell, so the profession should not be beholden to industry for any reason. To be trusted, medicine must be free of all such dependency; it should be accountable only to the society it serves and to its own professional standards.
Industry and the medical teaching institutions should each recognize their separate and distinct responsibilities, and should not encroach on the other's sphere. Properly regulated cooperation between the 2 in research sometimes furthers the public interest by advancing medical progress, but the medical academy and its salaried staff do not belong in pharmaceutical marketing any more than the pharmaceutical industry belongs in medical education. More respect for this distinction by both the academy and industry would lead to healthier and more honest relationships between the 2, and there would be fewer embarrassing ethical missteps and boundary violations, which have been undermining public trust and lowering the reputation of both the pharmaceutical industry and the medical profession."