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May 2004

Industry Funding for Continuing Medical EducationIs It Ethical?

Arch Ophthalmol. 2004;122(5):771-773. doi:10.1001/archopht.122.5.771

We were asked to contribute to a debate: Should the medical professionaccept industry funding for physician continuing medical education (CME)?If the goal of a debate is to win the argument, we are in the most enviableposition, since there is only one side to this question. Continuing medicaleducation is financed and will continue to be financed—and profoundlyinfluenced—by industry financing, and the medical education communitycannot prevent it.

Of course, the medical institutions can reject unrestricted educationalgrants (which, incidentally, are neither unrestricted nor grants), but CMEwould still be underwritten and undermined by industry funding. It shouldbe obvious to anyone who reads the newspapers that industry influence hassaturated every aspect of academic medicine—research, journals, andCME. Almost weekly, the popular press exposes industry's "undue influence"on medicine with headlines like "Tactic of Drug Makers Is Raising QuestionsAbout Use of Research,"1 "Biotech Firms BypassJournals to Make News,"2 "Doctors Meet WithDrug Makers to Discuss Industry Sales Tactics,"3 "Merckis Said to Limit Perks in Marketing to Physicians,"4 "StandingUp to Industry: As Corporations Increasingly Hold Their Purse Strings, ManyResearchers Feel Pressed to Deliver Favorable Results,"5 "Doctorson the Run Can ‘Dine ‘n' Dash in Style in New Orleans,"6 "With Quiet Unseen Ties, Drug Makers Sway Debate,"7 and "Study Says Clinical Guide Often Hides Ties ofDoctors."8

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