Medical Expert Witnesses & Continuing Medical Education

A U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging agreed that doctors must partake in continuing medical education throughout their careers but how to fund that education and whether it should be sponsored by pharmaceutical and device companies is at issue. Medical expert witnesses expressed a wide variety of opinions at the hearing entitled “Medical Research and Education: Higher Learning or Higher Earning?”

Some who testified advocated that industry should play no role in helping doctors continue to develop their skills. Pharmaceutical involvement in continuing medical education, or CME, is estimated to have grown more than 300 percent between 1998 and 2007 to over $1 billion, covering about half of CME services, according to Lewis Morris, chief counsel to the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Some vigorously asserted that such funds substantially influence the curriculum. Others advocated for more stringent rules dictating a “firewall” between pharmaceutical and device companies and CME services. One witness said that industry involvement in medicine — like funding CME — has actually spurred medical advances over the past 50 years.

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