CME professionals' reactions to the Senate Finance Committee report on medical education run the gamut, from those who agree that pharmaceutical company funding results in biased programming to those who think the committee is wasting its time and should focus on other issues, such as Medicare fraud. Regardless of their opinions, many agree that the result will be stricter guidelines from the ACCME.

“I agree wholeheartedly with the Senate Finance Committee. We all know that there are those pharma companies that do not function within the commercial support guidelines,” says Cassandra Greene, Assistant Director, CME, SUNY Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, N.Y. “What these findings will mean for the providers is additional, very stringent, criteria, but it is all for the betterment of the patient.”

But others think there are better ways to help patients than cracking down on CME. “It would be more relevant for the senate committees to look at the Institute of Medicine’s report about medical errors and the reports of other entities that describe the underuse, misuse, and overuse of healthcare facilities and services. [Those issues] really get more at the question of the appropriateness and cost of care,” says Robert E. Kristofco, MSW, president, Meniscus Educational Institute, West Conshohocken, Pa. To share your opinions, contact Editor Tamar Hosansky at (978) 466-6358; or send e-mail to Tamar Hosansky. Click here to take our survey and voice your views anonymously.

Here a sampling of responses to our survey.

“Though my livelihood depends on pharma funding of CME, I must be honest and recognize that if CME were fully independent the general direction and topic areas might be quite different than [they are now.] We will never be able to claim that CME is completely independent unless it funds itself--which is not realistic."

"Simply disallowing accredited providers from having a promotional parent company (firewalls are a joke) will largely eliminate the CME hacks in the community. It’s as simple as deciding which trees in the orchard are producing bad fruit and cutting them down, not the whole orchard."

"There are no obstacles to ethical behavior and there is no effective way to legislate it for those who want to behave otherwise."

"I believe this is a huge problem. This report is touching the tip of an iceberg. I am the chair of our hospital CME committee and I am amazed how many physicians have cozy relationships with drug reps. I have been offered opportunities to be on speakers bureaus with slides provided. This is a grass roots problem at its core but clearly goes to the top. Review the articles on the FDA approval process for Vioxx."

"The Committee seems to be focused on the cost of programs rather than the quality of care received by patients in the program. Their understanding of the role of off-label indications seems to be particularly unsophisticated and could be dangerous to patients. The Committee needs to consider that there are structural disincentives for getting many indications "on-label" and in many cases (such as oncology) where it would be largely impractical."

For more comments, watch for upcoming issues of Medical Meetings magazine.