Funding Sources:

Merck Pharmaceuticals Medical Education grants

Drug and device makers give more money to companies that provide doctor education than to other organizations, according to a study that suggests the groups should be evaluated for undue industry influence.

Companies such as (WBMD:US)’s Medscape and the closely held Postgraduate Institute for Medicine based in Englewood, Colorado, received $170 million split among 2, 077 grants from the drug and device makers in 2010 to provide continuing medical education. The report was released yesterday by the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Medical communication companies’ reliance on industry funding shows the importance of keeping education separate from promotional endeavors, wrote Lisa Schwartz and Steven Woloshin from the Center for Medicine and the Media at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice, in an editorial that accompanies the report. Companies feel pressure to present their clients’ products positively, they said.

“The pharmaceutical industry is invested in the continuing education of physicians and nonphysician prescribers alike, ” they wrote. “Closing loopholes that allow medical communication companies to bypass some of these policies would be an important additional step in ensuring that marketing is not confused with education.”

The money and information was provided by 13 pharmaceutical companies, led by Roche Holding AG (ROG) and its Genentech unit, Merck & Co., (PFE:US), and the device company, Medtronic Inc.

Report Disputed

Andrew Rosenberg, a senior adviser at the CME Coalition, which represents continuing medical education provider companies, questioned the report and the accompanying editorial. The work includes inaccurate and unfounded allegations about tainting continuing medical education efforts and a supposed misuse of physician data they collect, Rosenberg said in a statement.

The researchers failed to distinguish between medical education companies and medical communication companies that don’t provide continuing medical education, they ignored the statements of the CME companies that they don’t sell personal data and the report counts charitable contributions as education payments, he said.

As legal settlements and legislation require more disclosure, drug and device makers have become more forthright about their financial ties to doctors and other groups in the health-care industry. GlaxoSmithKline Plc announced yesterday it would stop paying doctors for giving speeches and attending medical meetings by 2016.

Grant Total

The researchers analyzed a database of information on $657 million in grants given to 6, 493 recipients in 2010. Most of the registry grants were for educational activities.

The study didn’t delve deeper into the relationships among the grantees and the industry, the researchers said. In addition to running education programs that doctors are required to take to stay current on medical advances, the communications companies can also help with advertising and publications for the industry.

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