Pfizer CME effort lacks brand tie-in

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Harvard affiliate Joslin Diabetes Center is mounting a CME research project with funding from a pharmaceutical company whose products are tangential to the therapeutic area.

It's uncommon for industry to fund CME without an aligned, proper commercial interest, and even more uncommon to fund research in CME. But Pfizer, which lacks a major product in diabetes, just committed a $300,000 challenge grant to the Boston-based diabetes center to test the usefulness of different CME assessment methods, said Joslin executive director of professional education Julie Brown.

Pfizer has supported 50% of the grant as a challenge to other commercial supporters to step up and support the research, according to a statement issued by Joslin.

The firm's 2010 funding report lists $10,000 given in the fourth quarter as the "placeholder" for the full Pfizer commitment of $300,000, Brown said. The full grant will be awarded when it's fully funded through commitments from added supporters, which Brown is confident will be announced in the near future.

Why is Pfizer funding research in professional education without a clear product tie-in? “Pfizer recognizes the value of medical education,” said its chief medical officer Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall in the Joslin statement, adding that med ed can provide valuable information about treatment that may reduce the burden from chronic illness.

The firm eased up on metabolic R&D years ago after withdrawing Exubera, an inhaled insulin which never caught on in the marketplace. The closest drug in its portfolio would be Lyrica, approved for treating the pain of diabetic neuropathy, but the education and research has nothing to do with DPN, Brown said, adding that Pfizer's products are not relevant to the education that forms the basis for the research.

The goal is to analyze different outcomes methods that accredited CME providers use to measure performance of doctors.
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