Commercial funding of continuing medical education and
the potential for bias concern many health care practitioners, according to a
report in the Archives of Internal Medicine, but many reported
being unwilling to pay higher fees to eliminate or offset commercial funding
Although the role of pharmaceutical and medical device
manufacturers in directing continuing medical education (CME) has been reduced,
the entities still fund a substantial proportion of costs,
according to the press release.
This has been met with urging from the Institute of
Medicine, American Association of Medical Colleges and American Medical
Association to further decrease or even eliminate commercial
support for educational activities, according to the release. However, that
could potentially mean the funding costs get shifted to attendees.
Our two main outcome variables were dichotomized
as follows: (1) agreed or strongly agreed that raising the registration fees is
an effective way to decrease commercial support vs. not, and (2) agreed or
strongly agreed that commercial support for live CME should be eliminated vs.
not, the researchers wrote.
Unwillingness to pay
The researchers surveyed 1,347 participants at a series
of five live CME activities. The survey included questions regarding the impact
of commercial support on bias, as well as the participants willingness to
make up for the lack in
funding if commercial support were to be eliminated.
With a reported 57% response rate, the researchers found
88% of the 770 respondents believed commercial support introduces bias. More
support, these respondents added, would indicate a greater risk of bias.
However, the researchers also found that only 15% of respondents supported the
elimination of CME activity commercial support. Furthermore, 42% of respondents
were willing to pay increased registration fees in the interest of helping
eliminate or decrease commercial support.
Participants who perceived bias from commercial
support more frequently agreed to increase registration fees to decrease such
support, the researchers noted. Participants greatly underestimated
the costs of ancillary activities, such as food, as well as the degree of
support actually provided by commercial funding. These results highlight the
complexities of eliminating or decreasing commercial support for CME at this
Given the reality that CME learners underestimate
the actual costs of live CME activities, the impact of decreases or changes in
funding sources needs to be further clarified, and an understanding of the
perceptions of these learners and efforts to better inform these clinicians of
the true costs of CME needs to be taken into account in the implementation of
any policy change, they added.
Disclosure: No relevant financial disclosures were reported.