New funding guidelines could jeopardise continuing medical education (CME) meetings, which in turn would negatively impact on physicians’ ability to attend several seminars in a year. That is one of the arguments used by Dr Barry T Katzen, ISET Course Director, in the article “The Death of CME as We Know It?,” published in Cardiovascular Business and reproduced in the ISET newspaper. The article, in which Katzen analysed the relationship between medical meetings and pharmaceutical and device companies, criticised the scenario of reduced industry support of CME regarding possible new guidelines: “One suggestion that has been made would prohibit doctors involved in trials from presenting results at meetings because of concerns that they may have been swayed to a positive opinion by payments made in exchange for their participation. In simplest terms, the very individuals who know the most about a new drug or device could be prohibited from sharing their expertise with colleagues in a formal, live capacity. Who, then, should we expect to talk about the findings, and how late in the game will we in the field hear about developments if those working on them must stay mum?” Katzen said the role of managing potential conflicts of interest “requires good judgment and a shot of scepticism”. He concluded: “We in the field have already experienced the downside of some of the over-regulation that has driven much of the device innovation outside of the US. The death of CME as we know it would only further erode our ability to acquire knowledge and, ultimately, to treat our patients”.
The CME was debated at the recent ISET. The discussion focused on two main questions. The first: ‘Given the potential for bias, should physicians with conflicts of interests be allowed to speak at meetings?’ The second question focused on industry support for CME activities.
Most meetings rely on educational grants to defray costs, and that has caused legislators, some say wrongly, to raise eyebrows. “They confused professional education with a whole multitude of things,” said at the debate Stephen Lewis, President of the North American Association of Medical Education and Communication Communities. The giving of free lunches and travel perks to doctors by industry has been lumped in with legitimate support for educational meetings, he explained James Benenati, an ISET course director who represented the Society for Interventional Radiology, affirmed, “Some critics have even suggested that such funding for education be cut altogether, a situation that could have negative repercussions. Societies would either have to raise fees very high or do very limited activities. This in turn would jeopardise the individual’s ability to keep up his or her training,” Benenati said.