CME Coalition Finds JAMA Report and Editorial on CME “Inaccurate,” “Disingenuous,” and Comprised of “Unfounded Innuendo”

Contact: Andrew Rosenberg, (202) 247-6301

December 17, 2013 - Today, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a brief report (Medical Communication Companies and Industry Grants) in tandem with an editorial (Medical Communication Companies and Continuing Medical Education Clouding the Sunshine) in which the respective authors advanced a variety of inaccurate and unfounded allegations concerning alleged tainting of accredited continuing medical education (CME) and supposed misuse of physician data collected by CME providers.

According to CME Coalition Senior Advisor, Andrew Rosenberg, “There are so many inaccuracies and examples of unfounded innuendo contained in both the ‘report’ and editorial, it is a challenge to enumerate them all.” Rosenberg continued, “And one wonders whether the editors of JAMA feel any need to peer review or fact check their own assertions.”

Among the many errors in the JAMA report and editorial, the writers failed to differentiate between “medical education” companies that are in the business of developing and executing accredited CME programs and “medical communications” companies that are in the business of providing non-CME communications. The two are different and practice distinct lines of work with differing sets of rules. The medical education companies represented by the CME Coalition are held to strict standards outlined by nationally recognized medical accreditation bodies designed to eliminate the potential for commercial influence in the content or provision of science-based curricula to physicians and other medical professionals.

Rosenberg added, ”While the supposedly data-driven JAMA editorial writers assert that ‘(CME) that is tainted by promotion … can lead to inappropriate prescribing that can harm patients and waste money,’ they acknowledge in the same paragraph that there is no proof of any such taint due to an ‘absence of a systematic review of CME materials.’”

“Thus, in the true spirit of honest research,” Rosenberg added, “the editorial’s authors refuse to let the absence of data prevent them from drawing adverse conclusions about the integrity of CME.”

Ironically, JAMA’s Brief Report is certified for CME credit.

Other areas in which the Report’s and editorial’s authors play loosely with the facts include the following:

  • The privacy policies of the CME companies referenced by JAMA virtually all attest that they do not sell individual’s personal data, despite the authors’ clear implication – without any evidence – that they “may range from selection of pop-up ads, follow-up e-mails, telephone calls, or even deployment of increasingly scarce detailing visits to these physicians’ offices… or may simply be sold to ordinary data brokers who bundle consumer information to sell to marketers.” What makes this pure speculation even more disingenuous is that the privacy policies of the CME companies are virtually identical to those provided by JAMA on its own website.
  • The editorial’s very first paragraph telegraphs the authors’ disregard for fairness by posing the leading questions: “Who wouldn’t want to go to Maui to discuss common issues in primary care? Or travel to Cancun to learn about using laboratory and clinical parameters to assess cardiovascular risk” despite the uncontrovertable fact that physician attendees may not be paid for their travel to accredited CME events… anywhere.
  • The Report disingenuously categorizes the reported charitable contributions of several pharmaceutical companies as medical education payments in order to bolster the appearance of their magnitude.
  • The authors conveniently fail to mention that the American Medical Association received $26.3 million in Journal Advertising revenue in 2010, which, in theory, should raise many of the same questions of bias for JAMA.
  • The Federal Government sees CME as an essential tool for provider education and improving patient outcomes. As recently as last week, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) distributed a presentation entitled: FDA Role in Continuing Medical Education (CME) which determined that: “CME (is an) essential part of staying informed as a practitioner,” and that “FDA has (an) emerging role in using CME as one component of our work to improve safe use of medical products.”

About the CME Coalition

The CME Coalition represents a broad collection of continuing medical education provider companies, in addition to other supporters of CME and the vital role it plays in the US health care system. Its member organizations provide, manage and support the development of healthcare continuing education programs that impact more than 500,000 physicians, nurses and pharmacists annually. Graduation from medical school and completion of residency training are the first steps in a career-long educational process for physicians. To take advantage of the growing array of diagnostic and treatment options, physicians must continually update their technical knowledge and practice skills. CME is a mainstay for such learning.

Andrew Rosenberg
(202) 247-6301