english.prescrire.org > Positions > Influence > Continuing medical education: avoiding bias

Theme: Influence

Money talks. In the hands of the pharmaceutical industry's PR machine, money shouts, lectures, cajoles and earnestly trumpets what it proclaims to be the truth. Independent voices are sorely needed.

Continuing medical education: avoiding bias

Training for health professionals must come from independent sources. The financial stakes being so vast, and yet so often hidden, health professionals must demand that providers of continuing education be free of any interests other than those of patients.

Amidst the proliferation of training programmes, health professionals should examine the materials used in these packages, to ensure that they are truly designed to benefit patients.

An essential prerequisite for a training programme to be deemed reliable is that it be independent from all interests other than those of patients. But there are massive commercial stakes in the healthcare and pharmaceuticals field, as the prosecution of a US pharmaceutical company has demonstrated.

This trial exposed the firm's strategy for promoting a drug beyond its approved clinical indications. The company's internal documents reveal the methods pharmaceutical companies use to get their drugs prescribed. They show the central role that companies give to "continuing education", which they influence through funding and content provision. One company manager summed up this role in clear terms: "This market is driven by medical training".

The purpose of continuing education for health professionals is not to open up markets for drug companies, but to improve patient care. It is a pity that pharmaceutical companies have lost sight of this obvious fact.

©Prescrire 2007

Source: "Formations : vérifier les sources" Rev Prescrire 2007; 27 (284): 401.

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