Despite drug company policies that separate education and marketing activities, risks still exist for kickbacks, veiled advertising of drugs, efforts to bias clinical protocols and off-label promotion, according to a U.S. Senate Finance Committee report released today that reviewed the practices of the 23 largest pharmaceutical manufacturers.
Also, when continuing-medical-education providers violate standards, the report stated that it can take up to nine years for penalties to be imposed.
This report shows some separation between medical education and marketing efforts, but this process still isnt clean enough, said Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) in a news release. As long as drug companies medical education efforts can influence Medicare and Medicaid spending, the Finance Committee has to insist that there be more improvement.
The release also criticized the organization that provides oversight on these matters, the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education, saying, It appears that ACCMEs oversight of accredited CME providers is insufficient to guarantee the required independence. ACCME could not provide comment by deadline.
According to the report, drug companies spent a total of about $1 billion on CME sponsorship in 2004, and had budgeted $218 million in 2005 for CME on oncology drugs alone.
The report said companies routinely fund programs that favorably discuss their newer and more lucrative products, and concluded that: There is a risk that physicians will allow favorable drug messages learned in an educational context to change their clinical practices to favor use of those drugs, without critically appraising the evidence or fully assessing information from other sources. -- by Andis Robeznieks