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Major Medical Schools limiting pharmaceutical funding

Stanford University officials on Tuesday plan to announce a new policy under which pharmaceutical and medical device companies no longer will have the ability to select continuing medical education courses that they seek to finance for physicians at the university’s School of Medicine, the New York Times reports. Under the policy, Stanford will ask the companies to contribute to a pool of funds that the university can use to finance any CME courses, regardless of whether those courses mention products marketed by the companies.

According to the Prescription Project, Stanford will become the sixth major U.S. medical school to establish such a pool as part of an effort to limit the influence of the companies on CME courses. Pharmaceutical and medical device companies have “long paid” for CME courses, and, although the “industry says its money is intended solely to keep doctors up to date, critics charge that companies agree to support only classes that promote their products,” the Times reports.

Stanford School of Medicine Dean Philip Pizzo said, “I want to make sure we’re not marketing for industry or being influenced by their marketing.”

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David Korn — chief scientific officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges, which in June recommended that medical schools establish policies to limit the influence of pharmaceutical and medical device companies on CME courses — called the new policy at Stanford “an extremely important step forward.”

Murray Kopelow, CEO of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education, said, “It’s a good plan, and it’s a big deal that a place like Stanford has adopted it,” adding, “When this is all over, medical education will not be the same as what it’s been.”

In a statement, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who in April 2007 issued a report that examined how companies have used CME courses to promote their products, said, “Reforms based on transparency can foster accountability and build confidence in medical education and, in turn, the practice of medicine.”

Ken Johnson, a spokesperson for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said, “America’s pharmaceutical research companies have taken positive steps to help ensure they provide nothing but accurate and balanced information to health care providers” (Harris, New York Times, 8/26).

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