The CME Coalition, a Washington, D.C.–based CME advocacy group, responded to the Pew recommendations with a warning: Because a third of the support for accredited CME comes from industry, the recommendations would eliminate one out of every three dollars that are invested in accredited medical education for docs. The Coalition believes that the premise underlying the recommendations—that commercial support of CME taints the education and negatively impacts patient outcomes—is faulty and unsupported by data.

“It is astounding that a respected institution such as Pew could continue to promote such an irresponsible approach to CME, and that these so-called experts are so willing to sacrifice the ability of doctors to avail themselves of the latest science out of a groundless distrust of physicians and their ability to put patients’ interest first,” says Andrew Rosenberg, CME Coalition’s senior advisor.

The Pew report acknowledges that “the empirical research on bias in industry CME is limited and in some cases outdated,” but it cites three studies that show learners prescribing more of the sponsors’ antihypertensives,  antibiotics, and antipsychotics post-activity.

The Association of Clinical Researchers and Educators, which historically has supported industry-physician collaboration, also is asking academic medical centers to reject the Pew recommendations. In a statement, ACRE said, “The Pew recommendations would create severe barriers to routine interactions between producers and consumers of advanced medical technology, including drugs, devices, diagnostics, and cell therapies that have been shown to accelerate the discovery, testing, production, and adoption of breakthroughs, under the watchful eye of FDA and quality system authorities.”

In addition, says ACRE, “the Pew proposals reflect the prejudice of a handful of academic bureaucrats who see cooperation and the promotion of innovation as endeavors beneath the dignity of medicine. The claim that interaction with industry leads physicians to utilize more expensive treatments reveals the true motive of the Pew report, that saving money is more important than saving lives, even when many modern discoveries have been shown to be more economical than older interventions (think of penicillin).  The recommendations simply rehash previously failed proposals. (Brennan 2007, Macy 2008, IOM 2009)” 

The Pew recommendations, which were drawn up by a group of medical doctors, attorneys, and PhDs, were devised to update the Association of American Medical Colleges’s 2008 conflict policies. The work was funded by a grant from the Attorney General Consumer and Prescriber Education Grant Program, which was established by the multistate settlement of consumer fraud claims regarding the marketing of Neurontin.