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J Law Med Ethics. 2009 Fall;37(3):451-60, 396. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-720X.2009.00406.x.

Pharmaceutical industry financial support for medical education: benefit, or undue influence?

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1
Institute for the Medical Humanities, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, USA.

Abstract

Presently, the pharmaceutical industry funds about half of the costs of continuing medical education (CME) programs in the U.S. This contributes to the ethical problems that pervade the relationship between medicine and the pharmaceutical industry: trustworthiness and conflicts of interest. The problems are exacerbated by rationalizations prevalent on both sides that deny the ethical concerns. Commercialism and commercial bias are highly visible at large CME gatherings, and available data, while scanty, back up the view that physician attendees' subsequent prescribing practices are influenced by the commercial message. The industry believes that it will recoup $3.56 in increased sales for every dollar that it invests in CME. New guidelines instituted by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) in 2004 may succeed in reducing excessive commercial influence, especially since the Department of Health and Human Services has also warned the industry of possible anti-kickback violations if firewalls are not erected between CME funding and marketing of drugs. Critics counter that early indicators of improvement are lacking.

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