Stanford says no to industry funding for CME
The Stanford University School of Medicine will no longer accept support from pharmaceutical or device companies for specific programs in continuing medical education (CME), since industry-directed funding may compromise the integrity of the programs for practicing physicians, officials said.

The action on CME builds on a 2006 policy that banned gifts including free meals and industry marketing at the Stanford University Medical Center.

Stanford is one of the few U.S. medical schools to enact such restrictions, which go into effect Sept. 1. The policy is being implemented as part of the school's ongoing review of its interactions with industry in the educational and clinical arenas, university officials said.

In announcing the latest decision, Dean Philip Pizzo, MD, said that he believes CME programs can be true to the School of Medicine’s goal of improving quality and clinical outcomes, only if they are free of commercial influence.

“We want CME to be unbiased and science-driven, and we don’t want it to be influenced by marketing. We want our educational activities for whomever we are serving—whether it’s our own faculty or our colleagues in the community, locally or globally—to be true to the science and the evidence, and not be influenced by any kind of financial industry support,” Pizzo said.

Some find industry-directed funding to be a worrisome trend. In recent years, the pharmaceutical and medical device industries have been a growing source of funding for CME programs. Between 1998 and 2006, industry funding for CME activities nationwide rose from $302 million to $1.2 billion, according to the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education.

In June, the American Medical Association’s Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs issued a report urging individual doctors and medical institutions not to accept industry support for CME, saying it could “threaten the integrity of medicine’s educational function.”

A conference of medical professionals convened in 2007 by the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation similarly concluded that because of industry’s involvement in CME activities, “Bias, either by appearance or reality, has become woven into the very fabric of continuing education” for physicians. Industry funding of CME activities also has been called into question by Congress, with two Senate committees reviewing the issue.