In order to keep their medical licenses, doctors are required to participate in periodic continuing education programs to stay abreast of current medical knowledge. But most of these programs are funded by pharmaceutical companies, which means the curriculum is often little more than disguised marketing for drugs and medical devices. So Dr. Martin Samuels, a neurologist at Harvard Medical School, has decided to launch a new continuing medical education (CME) company that receives no funding from drug companies.
After recently being invited to yet another drug company-funded conference at a fancy steakhouse, Dr .Samuels decided that enough was enough. He told reporters at The Boston Globe that the class–and other classes like it–are “subtle marketing” rather than actual education, and that he would not be attending it.
“Doctors have lost confidence in [continuing medical education] and the public has lost confidence,” he is quoted as saying in the article. “The feeling is that everything is tainted. We simply must have a new way of doing this.”
Dr. Samuels used to work for a CME company and knows first hand how the system works. Drug companies wine and dine doctors and offer courses to them for free, all of which influences the way doctors think about health and medicine and how they go about prescribing drugs.
Dr. Samuels’ CME, Lighthouse Learning (LL), on the other hand, will allow only teachers with no connections to the drug industry to teach, and the dean of the program will keep close watch on the curriculum directors’ relationships to make sure that no conflicts of interest arise. LL is set apart from other supposedly independent CMEs in that it will not accept drug industry advertising or exhibits at any of its conferences, either.
But getting doctors who are used to receiving free “education” to actually pay for it themselves could be difficult. And much of the burden could end up on hospitals that get stuck footing the bill for their doctors.
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