Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Pooled CME Model: A True Gift

Industry members, the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) has handed you a gift, even though you might be insulted by its recent proposal that you adopt a centrally funded CME model. From our back-of-the-envelope calculations, we can’t figure out how pharma loses with this proposition, only gains from it—including some public credibility.

But first, for those who don’t know what happened recently: The AGA proposed at a recent meeting that its pharma supporters contribute to a general fund for its CME activities. AN AGA education committee would determine the curriculum. But, “If required … AGA would guarantee companies to produce one program in a therapeutic area of interest to the supporter,” according to the Medical Marketing and Media article.

Industry members who heard the proposal weren’t exactly in love with the idea.

But, if they thought about it, they could at least grow to like it. One well known study has shown that physicians aren’t exactly aware of when industry has paid for the CME courses they’re taking, although they seem to be aware of the drug ads in the journals.

If the former is true, and it’s true that industry expects to recoup $3.56 for every dollar it invests in CME, then what difference does it make what the money pays for? Pharma only wins here. It is helping educate physicians, and it can say to its critics, “See, we are supporting well done CME and not involved in influence-peddling.”

Industry shouldn’t fear the change here—pharma should fear that it’s passing up a great opportunity to deal with a meddlesome transparency issue.

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