Glaxo CME program draws scrutiny

Despite a debate over routine testing of pregnant women for genital herpes, GlaxoSmithKline funded lectures and articles by outside doctors who advocate the practice, The Wall Street Journal reported last week. During the GSK-backed talks, the message doctors heard clearly favors universal screening for genital herpes and treatment of pregnant women who test positive for the virus. GSK’s Valtrex, the top-selling herpes drug, is not approved to prevent neonatal herpes in pregnant women. The article underscores the need for continued industry vigilance in the area of CME needs assessment, said Rich Tischler, PhD, a former accreditation director for ACCME who now runs Viator Medical Communications. “CME is the forum for off-label discussion, as long as the discussion is not controlled by the grantor,” he said. A GSK spokesperson told MM&M the company, “does not control the content or selection of speakers for these programs.” When asked why all of its speakers favor universal screening, the spokesperson said, “That’s something you’d have to ask the CME (providers) themselves.” Some advocates say universal screening could reduce herpes prevalence in infants. But federal health agencies are against it, as is the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, saying there is little benefit but potential risks if women who test positive for the virus start taking herpes drugs such as Valtrex (valacyclovir). Risks range from allergic reactions to hypertension.