THCB regulars will be missing the delicate tones of The Industry Veteran. But never fear, he’s back and none the less caustic for his lay-off from these hallowed electrons. Here’s his take on the new CME for doctors.
No doubt you saw this article in the Washington Postdescribing the efforts of PharmedOut to make no-cost, continuing medical education sessions available to physicians. As pharmaceutical companies sponsor a large proportion of CME sessions for physicians, the ostensible purpose of PharmedOut’s campaign lies in removing Pharma’s undue influence on prescribing behavior.It seems PharmedOut.org was created through a $21 million grant from Warner-Lambert (now Pfizer). The money represents part of Pfizer’s 2004 settlement of the whistle-blower suit involving W-L’s off-label promotion for Neurontin.
Now it’s inevitable that if pharmaceuticals are discovered and distributed through a competitive market and a gatekeeper system, the competitors will try to influence the decision makers and compromise the latter’s fiduciary responsibilities in the process. Is it too simple to suggest, however, that regulation should remove CME as a means for undue influence over prescribing by making the damn physicians pay their own way? Do any of the influentials who peruse THCB see a sick absurdity in the fact that physicians need to receive their CME free if they are to remain current? I’m not aware of settlement grants going for the continuing professional education of lawyers, accountants, or other self-employed professionals. Instead of using that $21 million to pay for health care programs for the indigent, someone thought it a good idea for six-figure physicians to receive free CME. I’ll wager a used examination glove that physicians will irrationally offer more resistance to paying for their own CME than to many other things that have a far larger impact on their wallets. The reason is their sense of entitlement. The boys and girls who cloak their black souls in white gowns feel they’ve worked so hard and “sacrificed their 20s” (as one cardiologist told me), that society owes them and should cover their CME.I’ll say it again. At some point genuine health care reform will require breaking the power of organized medicine, making the profession overwhelming female, and reducing it to the status of government paid professionals akin to school teachers. Until then, efforts to control cost, increase access and improve quality will have marginal results at best.