Neurontin settlement funds education efforts

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A Georgetown University Medical School professor recently launched a Web site offering links to non-commercially supported CME. Organizers claim it's the first central resource of its kind, but the site's provenance has garnered more interest: Pfizer indirectly funded the effort.

PharmedOut.org, the online repository, links users to more than 200 free, federally funded CME credits from agencies like the FDA, NIH and AHRQ.

“We were surprised at how many credits we were able to come up with primarily from federal agencies,” said Adriane Fugh-Berman, MD, the Georgetown associate professor behind the site and principal investigator of PharmedOut, a project launched in January.

The site includes news and info on pharma company influence on prescribing, with CME modules planned. “Part of what we're planning to do is to expose some of the techniques used by industry to influence physicians,” she said. Hence a YouTube video in which a former Eli Lilly rep explains how he downplayed side effects of antipsychotic Zyprexa.

Hers is one of 28 projects funded by the Attorney General Consumer and Prescriber Education grant program. The program was created with $21 million set aside from a 2004 settlement between Pfizer and state attorneys general over allegations of improper off-label marketing of Neurontin. Each grantee received a $400,000, two-year grant, and each is creating different educational programs for physicians. Step two will involve consumers.

“Usually [manufacturer] communication is focused on efficacy of the drug but not on safety,” said University of Alabama-Birmingham assistant professor Maribel Salas, MD. Salas is designing five online case-based scenarios including modules that teach physicians how to critically evaluate medical journal articles and promo materials sponsored by industry.

Many of the programs will offer CME credit and will be disseminated through the Web site of the Federation of State Medical Boards.  

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