Instability in funding has medical schools nervous: report

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Commercial CME funding for medical schools has increased appreciably over the last 12 years, through mid-2005, a new survey suggests. Nevertheless, the rates of increase has slowed dramatically during that span, causing academic education directors polled last August to say they felt commercial support was on the wane.

About 60 schools out of 104 members responded—a “reasonable [rate] to extrapolate from,” said R. Van Harrison, PhD, who compiled the data for the Society for Academic Continuing Medical Education.

The typical school reported $851,000 in industry funding as of June 2005 (end of academic year). That's a 59% jump compared to four years prior. Schools on both sides of the funding curve also saw gains: 15% for schools in the 25th percentile and 29% for schools in the 75th percentile. The dollar amounts include commercial support from pharma as well as exhibit fees. Two percent got none.

Compared to the 1992-93 time frame, commercial support at the typical school is up $745,000 (700%). The real increase is probably less than half that. And the rate of increase has slowed dramatically among all schools while internal costs are up. “CME departments in medical schools are getting squeezed,” said Marty Cearnal, EVP, chief strategy officer, Jobson Medical Information. No wonder directors are nervous: In August, 55% said funding was decreasing a little/a lot, vs. 10% who said it was increasing.

The ACCME annual report contains a more complete sample of schools going back to 1998, but it measures the funding mean, a statistic that can be skewed by statistical outliers.

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