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Editorial |

Continuing Medical Education, Physicians, and Pavlov Can We Change What Happens When Industry Rings the Bell?

Paul R. Lichter, MD
Arch Ophthalmol. 2008;126(11):1593-1597. doi:10.1001/archopht.126.11.1593.
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“The traditional independence of physicians and the welfare of the public are being threatened by the new vogue among drug manufacturers to promote their products by assuming an aggressive role in the ‘education’ of doctors.”1 Although written nearly half a century ago, this comment is worth considering today, especially as it pertains to continuing medical education (CME).

We commonly invoke CME to mean something good and something needed. In many ways, we seem to respond to it with a conditioned, Pavlovian response. Continuing medical education helps assure us and our patients that we are up to date in a fast-changing medical environment. The number of CME offerings grows annually. Yet, while it grows, much has transpired in the CME field to turn it on its head. Physician-industry relationships in CME have led to a creeping skepticism about how CME is planned and financed. Questions are being asked about the teachers and their sponsors and objectivity, which is taking its toll on physician credibility. How did this happen? What is fueling it? Perhaps CME's physician-participants and teachers have lost their way. If so, what can be done to restore them to their former respectability?

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The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
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