In a piece of extraordinarily good news for those of us promoting industry-free CME, one of Harvard's top neurologists, Martin Samuels, announced a new company, Lighthouse Learning, that will refuse any commercial funding for continuing medical education courses.
The Boston Globe broke the story in this article on their front page, which is in itself significant. It means that mainstream journalists understand that the funding of medical education is no longer an arcane topic that is of interest only to a few insiders.
The Globe's Liz Kowalczik quotes Dr. Samuels thusly:
“Doctors have lost confidence in [continuing medical education] and the public has lost confidence,’’ said Samuels, who sees patients at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where he heads the neurology division. “The feeling is that everything is tainted. We simply must have a new way of doing this.’’
Dr. Samuels' statement is particularly convincing because he used to be involved in the very industry-funded system that he is now spurning. Until recently, Samuels was the head of the neurology course of Pri-Med, an industry-funded MECC that puts on well-attended CME courses throughout the country. (Here's a link to their upcoming course in Boston). In January 2008, I blogged about Dr. Samuels' lecture at an ethics meeting at Harvard Medical School. Clearly, he was already ambivalent about industry funding of CME, calling for the the abolition of industry-sponsored satellite symposia at major medical meetings, while still defending the ability of Pri-Med to maintain a firewall between promotion and education. Evidently, his experiences with Pri-Med since then have proven to him that such a firewall is easily breached.
I'm going to assume that M/C Communications, the parent company of Pri-Med, is not terribly happy about this turn of events. According to the Globe, "M/C Communications said its model allows it to reach thousands of doctors with affordable programs. " Talk about a lame defense. In not even addressing the central issue here--that industry funding inevitably biases CME--M/C has essentially admitted that they are a marketing company. If they had been honest they would have said that "its model allows it to promote the sponsor's products to thousands of doctors with affordable programs."
Here is Lighthouse Learning's official press release announcing its launch.