Mass. General accepts commercial funding for CME for the first time

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I couldn't believe it when I saw this article on the front page of today's Boston Globe: Psychiatry funding questioned: Drug firms aid Mass. General. But it's a relatively upside article, even with quotes from Arnold Relman about how drug money inevitably creates bias and a rehash of the Neurontin case.

I heard a lot of talk about how to handle serial meetings like this at the Alliance meeting this year, and Mass. General's psych department has what sounds like a pretty good system. It asks drug companies to provide commercial support for the entire year's curriculum, rather than on a course-by-course basis. Also, the article says, "[Dr. Jerrold Rosenbaum, chief of psychiatry at Mass. General] said that when he raises money for the program, he tells drug companies only about the general therapeutic focus of the courses, the instructors, and the types and number of activities planned. He said some companies do not request more specific information because they are eager to demonstrate that funding decisions are not based on the potential for drug sales."

It doesn't address the ACCME's "resolve all conflicts of interest," or at least, their method of resolution wasn't mentioned in the article, which just said: "Many of the psychiatrists who teach the courses are consultants for, or receive research funding from, pharmaceutical companies, which they disclose to their audiences as required by the accreditation council." Also, while in the past, faculty were given credits they could use to pay professional dues or for academic needs, now they get $2,000 to $4,000 in cash per course. But, since 90 percent of the money is going to pay Primedia Healthcare, a Texas-based education and training company, maybe the honoraria is handled through them? It's unclear from the article.

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