Pfizer funds new, 'unbiased' CME at Stanford

Pfizer and Stanford University are teaming up to develop new CME courses. That's nothing new; drug companies fund new CME all the time. What is new is that Stanford will use $3 million in Pfizer funding specifically to develop CME that's free of any and all pharma industry influence.

"It's a fundamental change," Stanford's med school dean Dr. Philip Pizzo tells the New York Times. Pizzo says that the drug industry in the past has tainted CME with marketing messages. Plus, doctors have been too willing to take CME-related speaker fees and go on CME junkets, he adds.

According to Stanford, Pfizer will have no say in its use of the money. "The Pfizer grant comes with no conditions, and the company will not be involved in developing the curriculum," a medical school press release states (as quoted by the Times). The university will set up new programs to take place on campus, rather than in hotel ballrooms or at resorts. Pfizer says that it wants to help revamp CME financing to ensure their independence and their benefits to patients.

Some industry-watchers have applauded both Stanford and Pfizer for the arrangement. "It's fair to say Stanford is once again leading the pack," says David Rothman, who's criticized academic conflicts of interest in JAMA. Others, however, are skeptical. "The announcement is self-satirizing," Georgetown University professor Adriane Fugh-Berman tells the Times. We'll have to wait and see how the courses turn out.

- see the NYT story