Pfizer sacks commercial support of CME

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Pfizer will no longer fund continuing medical education through med ed firms.

The company, until recently the leading supporter of CME, said it will continue to support CME programs provided by academic medical centers and teaching hospitals, associations, medical societies and community hospitals, but will no longer offer direct funding for programs provided by medical education and communication companies (MECCs).

The move is aimed at tempering concerns that industry support biases CME content. “We understand that even the appearance of conflicts in CME is damaging and we are determined to take actions that are in the best interests of patients and physicians,” said Pfizer Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joseph Feczko in a statement.

Pfizer's support of CME has dropped considerably in recent years. In 2005, the company spent $314 million on all forms of CME, including accredited and non-accredited programs, according to Verispan figures. In 2006, CME support dropped to $285 million, again according to Verispan. Last year, the manufacturer reported spending around $80 million on CME. In May, as part of a transparency push, Pfizer posted a list of $10 million in med ed grants for the first quarter of 2008.

The company acknowledged that some supported programs will be contracted out to MECCs by academic and institutional providers.

Tom Sullivan, president of med ed firm Rockpointe, questioned whether funding academic and institutional providers, which will contract commercial providers to execute many programs, increases transparency. “How does having multiple provider situations make it really transparent?”

In a statement, the Coalition for Healthcare Communication said: “Senior CME professionals throughout the industry agree that commercial education companies are among the finest in the industry. However, many uninformed public policy makers and other critics of the industry have unfairly singled out commercial providers, leading Pfizer to the unfortunate decision announced today.”
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