Pfizer to stop funding physician CME programs

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Pfizer is changing the way it supports continuing medical education (CME) initiatives for U.S. healthcare professionals.

The company said it is eliminating all direct funding for physician CME programs provided by medical education and communication companies (MECCs), although it will honor existing commitments.

The New York City-based Pfizer said it will continue to support CME programs at many academic medical centers and teaching hospitals, as well as programs sponsored by associations, medical societies and community hospitals, to keep with the shared goal of improving public health.

“Continuing medical education, when done right, improves healthcare provider understanding of disease, expands evidence-based treatment and contributes to patient safety,” said Joseph M. Feczko, MD, chief medical officer of Pfizer. “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.”

Medical licensing rules administered by most states in the U.S. require physicians to receive a certain number of CME credits each year, generally between 15 and 50 depending on the state.

Since 1981, the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) has accredited institutions and organizations offering CME. Pfizer and other pharmaceutical companies have helped fund the programs, because they provide new clinical information to physicians and other healthcare professionals with the goal of supporting patient care and improved healthcare outcomes, according to the pharmaceutical company.

To qualify for Pfizer support in the future, CME programs will have to meet revised, stricter criteria, which include:

  • Eliminating all new direct funding commitments for CME programs by MECCs;
  • Initiating a competitive grant review period for grant applicants to encourage more high-quality grant applications;
  • Supporting the medical community’s call for balanced funding in CME by establishing financial caps on grant support; and
  • Requiring all major grant applicants to meet criteria equivalent to ACCME’s highest level of accreditation.