CME accreditation body plans exposure of courses violating drugmaker influence rules

To remain certified, doctors must take continuing medical education courses each year. With about half of the $1 billion per year cost of these courses being picked up by pharmaceutical companies, questions have always lingered as to whether such sponsorships unduly influence physicians. That's particularly the case, critics say, because the nonprofit that accredits course providers--the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education--hasn't done enough to police drug industry influence on such content.

This week, however, the accrediting group has signaled that it's ready to take a tougher stand on the issue of pharma influence on CME content. The head of the ACCME said this week that he would soon be revealing a list of classes and companies that already have violated rules against imposing commercial bias on this content.

The group also is considering a proposal that would require educators to tell doctors if a course is later found to be too biased in favor of a drug firm, as well as supply corrective materials, according CEO Dr. Murray Kopelow.

Dr. Kopelow previously had told a Senate committee that his group had acted on only 12 inquiries about commercial biased in CME courses during 2008 and 2009, and found only five of them to have violated the rules. That's a vanishingly small number, considering that the nonprofit accredits more than 100,000 classes. Small wonder that the group is under pressure to impose tougher screens on content--particularly given the general trend toward tougher scrutiny of pharma-doctor relationships.

To learn more about this story:
- read this piece in The New York Times

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