Pfizer Stops Funding Some Continuing Medical Education Programs

July 7, 2008

Pfizer will no longer fund physician continuing medical education (CME) programs provided by medical education and communication companies, the company said.

It will honor existing commitments and continue to support CME programs at academic medical centers and teaching hospitals, as well as programs sponsored by associations, medical societies and community hospitals. It also will continue to support such grants as the one it made to the California Academy of Family Physicians last March for a three-year national healthcare professional education campaign to reduce the number of smokers in the U.S., it said.

The change will help the medical profession address conflict-of-interest problems, Dave Davis, vice president for continuing education and improvement at the Association of American Medical Colleges, said, according to Pfizer.

“Continuing medical education, when done right, improves healthcare provider understanding of disease, expands evidence-based treatment, and contributes to patient safety,” Joseph Feczko, Pfizer’s chief medical officer, said. “We understand that even the appearance of conflicts in CME is damaging and we are determined to take actions that are in the best interests of patients and physicians.”

Federal and state lawmakers have cast a wary eye on industry practices in funding CME programs. For example, Merck agreed in a court settlement last May to follow Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education standards for commercial support, which are intended to ensure CME activities are independent.

Last year, the Senate Finance Committee issued a report on CME funding after a two-year investigation, saying drugmakers have supported programs to reward physicians for prescribing their drugs and promoting their products for off-label uses.