Support for CME crosses $2-billion mark

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Revenue for continuing medical education reached $2.04 billion in 2004, the first time it has crossed the $2-billion threshold, a new report shows.
The report, compiled by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) as part of its annual industry audit, shows total CME revenue -- comprised of commercial support and other sources -- grew by 15 percent year over year, as compared to 11 percent in 2003.
"That, to me, was a surprise," said Jim Dougherty, president of the Association of Medical Publishers (AMP) and group president at McGraw-Hill Healthcare Information Group. After ACCME updated its Standards for Commercial Support last year, CME entities have operated in a more restrictive atmosphere. That was expected to stunt revenue.
Yet figures show commercial grants registered double-digit growth, totaling 21 percent. That's a decline in the growth rate, from 31 percent the previous year, reflecting "some hesitation on the part of the sponsor to provide money," according to Dougherty. But "The majority of the industry would have expected that sponsorship number to have gone backwards."
Commercial supporters, mostly FDA-regulated companies, continue as the main source of funding, accounting for 54 percent of total CME revenue.
Another big trend, and also a first, is that the number of live events, and M.D. attendance of them, both declined in 2004. "This is also...a side effect of the [ACCME] guidelines," Dougherty said. "Companies may be less interested in funding live events, where there is less control."
Overall, however, the number of physicians participating in CME increased.
Although live events still draw the majority of M.D. participants, this is no longer the fastest growing CME area. That distinction goes to online CME activities, which doubled in 2004.
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