Medical School Says No to Health Industry Funding for Continuing Ed.

The University of Michigan has become the first medical school in the country to halt the funding of its continuing medical education classes by companies with pharmaceutical and medical device industry ties. The move, approved in a vote by university officials, comes amid widespread criticism in academic and professional circles that the relationship between doctors and these industries is too close and the relationship often blurs the line of professional ethics.
In announcing the school’s decision, Dr. James O. Woolliscroft, dean of the medical school, noted that the school wanted “wanted education to be free from bias, to be based on the best evidence and a balanced view of the topic under discussion.”
However, this decision is not without its own controversy. Many doctors believe such a move cuts them off from access to important scientific knowledge. The heads of the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association have decried the move.
The issue has become controversial partly because its a multi-billion dollar industry. Continuing medical education garnered $2.5 billion in 2007 with 700 accredited providers of the education vying for position and access to doctors.
The NY Times interviewed experts on both sides of the issue, one in particular caught my attention because he’s a physician who has also studied how medical education is part of an overall marketing strategy for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry. Dr. Steinman, associate professor of medicine at the San Francisco VA medical Center noted, “The course providers have a subtle and probably unconscious incentive to put on courses that are favorable to industry because they know where their bread is buttered.”