Australia eyes CME's ties to pharma

A wave of drug companies-influence-doctors news is sweeping the land down under. Apparently, one big company that offers continuing education at hospitals and universities across the country has been letting its pharma sponsors help dictate their agendas and choose expert speakers.

In return for paying thousands to sponsor a program, the drugmakers get the chance "to determine a topic that is on-message for your product area," The Australian reports. According to leaked emails, speakers sometimes enthusiastically endorse a drug--but the audience is never told that the drug's maker helped pay for the event. And under medical industry rules, accredited continuing education for docs is required to be independent.

Pharma companies confirmed that they got to suggest speakers for the events, but they and the CME company, HealthEd, said all their suggestions were subject to approval by the hospital or college hosting the events. "We filter suggestions that come from the industry," a HealthEd official told the paper.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., an editorial in the Boston Globe is calling for a bold black line to be drawn between doctors and drug makers. The editorial supports a new University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center policy that would prohibit docs from accepting gifts or meals from drug companies.

- read the story in The Australian
- see a transcript or listen to audio of an Australian Broadcasting report
- check out the Boston Globe editorial