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Concerns about bias in commercially-funded medical education

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There is concern among healthcare professionals about potential bias in commercially-funded Continuing Medical Education (CME), according to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

CME refers to specific activities--including live events, conferences and online programs--that healthcare professionals participate in for the purposes of professional development.

Some of these programs are funded by medical manufacturers, and while many healthcare professionals would prefer those sources of funding to be excluded from CME events, many are unwilling to pay higher fees to offset their elimination.

From JAMA:

Commercial funding of continuing medical education (CME) and the potential for bias appear to concern many health care practitioners and researchers, but many reported being unwilling to pay higher fees to eliminate or offset commercial funding sources, according to a report in the May 9 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. Although over the past several years, the role of pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers in directing CME has been reduced, these entities still fund a substantial proportion of costs. Organizations such as the Institute of Medicine, the American Association of Medical Colleges and the American Medical Association have called for further decreases in or the elimination of commercial support for educational activities. However, such a change might shift costs to attendees, and little has been known of their attitudes. From January through June 2009, Jeffrey A. Tabas, M.D., from the University of California San Francisco, and colleagues surveyed attendees at live CME courses delivered by the International AIDS Society–USA (IAS-USA), a nonprofit organization that pools the support it receives from industry so that no one company funds any particular program. In total, 770 attendees (a 57% response rate) completed the 22-item survey, which focused on beliefs about commercial funding and potential for bias, willingness to offset the cost of commercial support, knowledge about the costs of producing CME programs, and demographic information.

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