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J Contin Educ Health Prof. 2003 Fall;23(4):198-209.

The uncertain future of continuing medical education: commercialism and shifts in funding.

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Department of Medical Education, Office of Continuing Medical Education, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.


To preserve a professionally responsible system for continuing medical education (CME), medicine must recognize and address two powerful economic forces: commercial interests and societal resource limitations. Commercial support to accredited CME providers is now more than 50% of total CME income. The cumulative influence is increasingly biasing CME development, presentation, and participation toward topics that benefit commercial interests. Options to address this cumulative bias are proposed. Limitations on societal resources for health care have reduced funding from medical schools and hospitals for the infrastructure of CME. Financial pressures are likely to increase, potentially leading to controls on drug costs and significant reductions in commercial support of CME. Financial pressures on physicians' incomes may limit the extent to which registration fees could offset these reductions. Physicians and their professional organizations should recognize these threats to the objectivity, funding, and infrastructure of the CME system and they should work to ensure a viable CME system in the future.

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