Reform bill would require pharma disclosures of CME funding

While it's gotten relatively little attention from pundits, provisions within reform bills passing through Congress would demand that pharmaceutical companies disclose how they're spending on continuing medical education.

The reform bill passed by the House last week requires drug and medical-device companies to disclose payments to both doctors and third parties, including medical-education firms. Senate versions of the bill include similar provisions, though they don't require the disclosure of third-party payments.

Since doctors can't get CME credit for attending courses run directly by drugmakers, CME companies hold the classes. Many have suggested that these courses, which are directly sponsored by the pharmas, are more infomercial than education.

Congressional investigations of physician ties to industry have already hit CME companies hard, many of which have seen their revenue fall by double digits, according to the Wall Street Journal. Industry payments to for-profit firms dropped 22 percent during 2008, to $463 million, from $594 million a year earlier, according to the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education.

Imposing such restrictions would not be a new idea for Congress, which has been mulling over the related Physician Payments Sunshine Act since 2007. The current version of the PPSA hasn't yet come out of the Senate Finance Committee, however, while the Senate is all but guaranteed to pass some reform bill very shortly.

To learn more about this issue:
- read this Wall Street Journal piece (sub. req.)

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