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					Continuing Education For Medical Doctors

Courses for Continuing Education Medical Doctors Attend will never get
Corporate Aid. Is that Fair?

It is usually the government that tries to get in and ruin everyone's fun
when there is a conflict of interest. If there is a business making too large
a contribution to some politician's kitty, the law (not to mention the
media), swoops in and has something to say about it. If someone in law
enforcement accepts a gift, they get suspended. If a doctor accepts a pass
to an all expenses-paid junket, paid for by a pharmaceutical major, people
whisper that there is some kind of cozy arrangement at play. What about
doctors-in training though? The University of Michigan's medical school is
the first anyone's ever heard of that has decided that it will no longer
accept contributions from pharmaceutical majors like Pfizer or Johnson &
Johnson to help doctors engaging in continuing education, medical license
renewals and so on pay for their coursework.

That's the way it will be, starting New Year's Day next year; and it's a
move that's been voted for by the entire university administration. All of this
comes from the outcry that's been building up in the medical profession -
medical associations, med school lecturers, law makers, medical ethics
experts and so on. They worry that doctors who come in for continuing
education, medical exams and so forth, who accept contributions from the
drugmakers, will feel beholden to them when they step into their clinics to
practice.

So how much money are we talking about here? At the University of
Michigan, it's about a million dollars for the doctors' continuing education;
medical courses like these nationwide call in about a billion dollars - that's
about 50% of their entire budget. This is actually getting serious - with
Continuing Medical Education or CME as it is known, the accrediting
authority is beginning to become completely intolerant of commercial
involvement. They've declared that no doctor attending any meeting held by
an industry-employed expert is going to get any credit anymore. So what
do the doctors think about this? The National Institutes of Health and the
American Heart Association find this an egregious intrusion in their affairs.
They feel that this is their main source of continuing education,
medicalknowledge and so on; and to cut them off from it would be a
disservice to medicine.

Private medical education businesses that accept funds from pharmaceutical
companies to run their courses completely disagree with all of this though.
They claim that if they were to charge doctors for their education, no one
would be able to afford it. They feel that there certainly can be a certain
amount of doubt and suspicion that commercial investment can have an
unwholesome effect on a doctor's judgment; but they feel that since this is
not proven, and you can't just go about banning things on suspicion.

Continuing education medical courses are a huge business in this country,
and there are more than 500 accredited providers. They claim that there is
nothing in the courses that could possibly persuade attending doctors to
prescribe products by any company. A survey of doctors fresh out of these
courses claims that the doctors don't see any cause for worry. But that is
a survey that kind of begs the question. The ethicists wonder why on earth
tightfisted corporations would spend a billion every year if it didn't come
back to them in some way. And the doctors argue right back that there is
so much science that's going on in the private sector. If they didn't have
access to it, where would they be? If Johnson & Johnson and makes a
discovery or invention, how else are doctors going to know about if not
from Johnson & Johnson? Good arguments on both sides. But for now,
they're shutting industry out of medical education.
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