Health and Speech Rights at Risk from Attacks on Medical Education

April 12, 2006 Download PDF

Continuing Medical Education (CME) plays a critical role in the healthcare system. Medical school is merely the start of a physician’s education; however, physicians need to remain current in the decades following completion of their formal education. With the rapid growth in medical information, the importance of CME is increasing, not diminishing.

Providing CME is a costly endeavor. There are a number of funding sources, including physicians, professional societies, academic institutions, and manufacturers of healthcare products. This latter source has recently come under direct attack from the Senate Finance Committee. Through a series of letters to pharmaceutical companies, the Committee has probed and challenged industry’s sponsorship of CME programs. The committee appears to fear that this sponsorship will bias physician prescribing practices, particularly if any marketing personnel in the company play any role in evaluating whether the company should support the program. The Committee’s attack on corporate sponsorship of CMEs ignores both the First Amendment and the well-established existing mechanisms that are designed to protect the integrity of CME programs.