Medical Education Participants Recognize Funding Bias

Yet most are unwilling to pay more for continuing medical education registration to overcome bias

WEDNESDAY, May 11 (HealthDay News) -- Although most medical professionals believe that commercial funding of continuing medical education (CME) introduces bias, most are not willing to pay higher fees to offset or eliminate such funding sources, according to a study published in the May 9 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Jeffrey A. Tabas, M.D., from the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, and colleagues determined whether participants in CME perceived that commercial support introduced bias, and whether the amount or type of support affected this bias. They also determined whether the participants were willing to pay higher fees or accept fewer amenities to eliminate or decrease the need for such funding. Of the 1,347 participants at a series of five commercially supported CME activities, 770 responded to the structured questionnaires.

The investigators found that 88 percent of the respondents believed that commercial support introduced bias, with greater bias risk introduced with greater commercial support. Although participants who perceived bias were more likely to agree to raise registration fees to decrease this support, only 42 percent were willing to pay increased registration fees to do so, and only 15 percent supported removal of commercial support. The degree of support actually provided by commercial funding, and costs of ancillary activities, such as food, were greatly underestimated by the participants.

"Although many participants perceived that commercial support poses a risk for bias in CME activities, and greater amounts pose greater risk, many did not seem willing to offset those costs by paying more for the activity or decreasing what was offered," the authors write.

CME courses delivered by the International AIDS Society-USA used in the analysis were supported by pooled grants by many pharmaceutical companies; however, none of the grants were used to support the study.

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