This question was explored by panelists participating in this month's Pharma Marketing Roundtable conference call, which was focused on pharmaceutical industry support of CME.
There definitely seems to be a chilly wind blowing from all quarters -- from physicians to government.
It all started back in April, 2003, with the release of the OIG's Guidance for Pharmaceutical Manufacturers, which, in part, addressed edu-cational grants for support of CME. This was followed by ACCME's Standards for Commercial Support of CME in 2004.
These activities have tremendously impacted how publishing/education companies produce CME and how pharmaceutical companies fund CME. Most pharma CME supporters have erected "firewalls" between their educational and promotional activities to prevent conflicts of interest.
In addition, many pharma companies have handed over the CME budget to medical affairs, which one Roundtable panelist likened to "giving a kid a pile of money without the experience about how best to use it."
Despite these changes, critics such as Senator Grassley continue to question certain CME-related grants. John Kamp, Executive Director of the Coalition for Healthcare Communication, calls Grassley's tactics "regulation by raised eyebrows." He's afraid these tactics will have a chilling effect on pharma support for CME.
Although the total amount of pharma spending on CME increased in 2004 compared with 2003, the percent of CME income attributable to pharma has decreased and shifted away from MECCs (medical education and communication companies) to schools of medicine. The 2005 ACCME data-due to be released soon-is expected to reveal that the absolute amount of pharma CME dollars has decreased somewhat.
Shifting funding away from commercial CME providers to schools of medicine is proabably an effective strategy to stave off the chill factor.
But perhaps there is another reason for the expected overall decrease in CME funding by pharmaceutical companies. Could it be due to the decrease in new drugs being approved? Fewer new and innovative drugs means less unmet need for physician education.