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By: Adriana Noton
Continuing Medical Education has been in existence since there has been medical personnel treating patients. Centuries ago doctors met regularly with their colleagues and instructors to discuss their respective cases. This was an opportunity to keep current on new techniques and discoveries. These meetings were and still are an aid to help keep abreast of the latest developments and for doctors to maintain their competency level.

The traditional meetings have grown to include online programs and live events. The content is presented by faculty with specific expertise. Doctors and nurses alike can take part in courses designed to be studied from the comfort of their homes. No longer do they have to use their valuable time to commute to a campus and cope with traffic and weather conditions.

From the 1950s to the 1980s changes started taking place concerning the funding of CME meetings and events. The pharmaceutical companies provided funding and became more influential over the content that was presented to the medical community. These powerful corporations were starting to use CME venues as a platform to market their products.

Concern grew to the point that agencies such as the Society for Academic Continuing Medical Education were established. Today the members are professors from schools and teaching hospitals who are invited to present their expertise. Doctors are required to participate in CME and each state and province has their requirements. CME courses are provided by hospitals, schools and education organizations.

The concern is that these institutions and agencies are promoting topics that appeal to commercial sponsorship. The sponsors provide grants to programs that will incorporate their strategies for marketing.The Institute of Medicine has criticized the CME for not having a broader focus. Presenters are following the agenda that the pharmaceutical companies want them to follow. The Institute of Medicine has recommended that more topics dealing with the prevention of illness be discussed and promoted.

The medical institutions have been targeted by much opposition for encouraging patients to buy drugs. Hundreds of books have been written pointing out that many illnesses can be treated without drugs. More exercise and healthier foods have been found to effectively improve the lives of people without recourse to drugs.

Several pharmaceutical companies have been sued by the U. S. Department of Justice for bribing doctors to promote their products. A highly respected university hospital recently included a statement on their website where they announced a new policy banning a speaker's bureau that works in conjunction with pharmaceutical companies. The university wanted to make it clear that their top priority is to offer evidence-based education and discourages any affiliation with pharmaceutical companies.

Many people feel as if too many doctors prescribe drugs to treat symptoms rather than to seek the cause for the illness. Patients then complain of suffering from the side-effects of the drugs. It appears too as if the drug companies have such a powerful market presence that most people will take a pill to alleviate the pain rather than examine the source of the pain and try to treat that first.

Continuing Medical Education offers the platform to inform and educate professionals how to make better choices. This was the original mission statement and many hope that the influence of the drug companies will decrease in time.


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