I've reproduced the ad to the left here, but you can read it in its full, large-fonted glory here.
"IN THE UNITED STATES," the ad begins, "THE PRESS CANNOT BE CENSORED. THE INTERNET CANNOT BE CENSORED. POLITICAL ADVERTISING CANNOT BE CENSORED." Here's the kicker: "WHY ARE SOME MEMBERS OF CONGRESS AND ACADEMIA TRYING TO CENSOR MEDICAL COMMUNICATIONS?"
Then there are a few paragraphs of gibberish stating that information is important for quality health care (that's true, that's why I went to medical school and keep up on the medical literature) and how "Congress and academia are seeking to restrict the content of CME" and how this somehow amounts to "restrictions on how much information consumers and doctors can know about current and new treatments...."
At the end, in small italicized print, we read: "This message is brought to you as a public service by the Coalition for Healthcare Communication."
To find out who is the "public" benefiting from their "service", surf on over to their website. It is simply a repository of political ammunition for medical education companies who are on their last ditch stand defending their business model, which depends on getting drug companies, rather than our doctors, to pay for CME.
I am hardly the first physician to be outraged by this stealth ad. Michael Herbert, a primary care doctor and blogger, posted this analysis of the ad that is so nicely written it became an "editor's pick" of OpenSalon magazine.
Entitling his article "The Secret Defense of CME," Dr. Herbert concludes his piece thusly:
"Unsurprisingly, this campaign underscores what is wrong with CME funding. You can’t tell where the money is coming from. This makes it difficult to interpret the message, or measure the bias. If Big Pharma and drug marketers can’t defend their CME practices without disguising them in cryptic constitutional arguments, it is hard to see them presenting CME in a way that would allow doctors to clearly evaluate bias.
This is not an ad for freedom of speech. It is an ad for secrecy. And secrecy in a scientific discipline is not a good thing."
Dr. Herbert saw this ad in American Family Physician, and I assume the thing has metastasized throughout the medical literature. I urge readers to write letters to their professional journals in protest of this sneaky screed. I know I will.