Industry funding for CME falls 31% to $830M

Last week, updated data on pharma's payments to doctors hinted at some pullback. Some physicians apparently are backing away from doing pharma work because of increased scrutiny of those relationships. Well, similar scrutiny has changed the mix of funding for continuing medical education, too.

Industry support for CME dropped to $830 million in 2010, the third year in a series of declines. Support from pharma companies and devicemakers for CME hasn't been that low since 2002, American Medical News reports. And the recent declines aren't insignificant either. In 2007, industry CME funding amounted to $1.2 billion. So, last year's numbers amount to a 31% drop from three years before. And where commercial funding once amounted to 47% of CME providers' funding, it's now only 37%.

So, who's picking up the difference? Doctors themselves, at least partly, American Medical News says. CME providers are relying more heavily on the fees they charge physicians to take the required courses, which range from $20 to $50 per credit hour. Fees now account for more than half of accredited CME providers' revenue, the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education figures.

The ACCME beefed up its rules on industry funding back in 2007. The new policy sought to distance CME from industry influence, in part by prohibiting companies from getting involved in CME courses' content. Pfizer ($PFE) and GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) both pulled out of the CME funding business--at least when it comes to for-profit CME--soon after the ACCME policy changes. Medical schools still team up with pharma firms and devicemakers on CME courses, but even that is declining. As AMedNews points out, the University of Michigan Medical School gave up industry support for CME completely, and that money had accounted for almost half of its annual budget of $1.2 million.

Some CME companies have gone out of business as commercial funding dried up, said Thomas Sullivan, president of the for-profit CME provider Rockpointe. "Some of the restrictions and the criticism have caused money to leave the marketplace," Sullivan said. "Big [pharmaceutical] companies don't like to get criticized."

- see the story from AMedNews