Pharmaceutical industry-sponsored meetings: good value or just a free meal?
Although the role of the pharmaceutical industry in continuing medical education (CME) has been debated for many years, industry CME funding continues to increase. Because of concern about the educational quality of industry CME, the Hunter Postgraduate Medical Institute (HPMI), an independent Newcastle and Hunter Valley CME provider, evaluated the use and quality of industry CME as reported by rural and urban general practitioners, physicians and psychiatrists. Furthermore, clinicians were asked if they supported increased industry-funded independent CME. Sixty-two per cent of general practitioners and 71% of psychiatrists attended at least three industry-organized meetings each year, compared with 24% of physicians. Twenty-five per cent of general practitioners attended five or more such meetings. Industry meetings were judged to be of good to excellent quality by 81% of generalists, 79% of physicians and 87% of psychiatrists. All clinical groups ranked the topic and then speaker as the most important reason for attending, with CME points, venue and the sponsor ranked lowest. Eighty to 90% of doctors supported a greater role of industry-funded independent CME. Despite the absence of current data on the use and perceived benefits of industry CME, these preliminary results suggest that industry CME is playing an increasingly important role in clinician education. However, many clinicians and industry representatives support a greater role by independent postgraduate organizations in industry-sponsored CME. (Intern Med J 2001; 31: 488–491)