Drug companies have been catching flak lately not only for their direct payments and gifts to doctors--such as speaking fees and travel--but for funding the kind of continuing medical education that physicians need to keep their licenses current. Well, Pfizer is backing away from some of that CME sponsorhip. The drugmaker will no longer back CME courses provided by for-profit, third-party companies. It will keep paying for courses offered by med schools, teaching hospitals and medical societies, though.
Why the new policy? Pfizer wants to stave off "the perception of a conflict of interest," Pfizer told Dow Jones. The company spent $80 million on CME classes last year, with less than half going to the sorts of groups that now will be barred from support.
Now the question is whether other drugmakers will follow suit. The industry as a whole spent more than $1 billion funding CME, the WSJ Health Blog notes; drugmakers leapt into CME sponsorship in a big way after the industry agreed it should educate docs rather than just entertaining them. As the funding has grown, so have worries about undue influence. Some academic hospitals have even pledged to stop offering classes paid for with industry money.