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January 29, 2009

Commercial Support of CME Receives Broad Support by Physicians

A study of 902 U.S. physicians, by healthcare market research firm, Manhattan Research, found that only 9% oppose commercial support for CME funding.  The results of this study are relevant to the ongoing discussions in the medical community about the role of commercial funding of CME.

In an effort to better understand the positions of those who actually use CME, Manhattan Research surveyed physicians on their opinions with regard to their use and the potential bias of industry-funded programs.  The Manhattan Research study reports that only 8% of physicians who participated in CME believe that it is biased.  In fact, if commercial support were halted, nearly one-half of the physicians surveyed would decrease their use of CME.

According to the study, almost all physicians utilize CME programs to maintain and grow their medical knowledge and to keep up-to-date on the latest advances in their specialty with the ultimate goal of improving patient care.

Pharmaceutical companies are a funding source for CME programs, which has prompted some critics to question their influence over CME course content.  In response, the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), the organization that accredits CME providers, has augmented its standards and guidelines to ensure the independence of commercially supported CME activities.  The American Medical Association’s Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs (CEJA) is also expected to issue a new report on commercially-supported CME later this year.

“While there’s been debate around the value of industry-supported CME, as our study reveals, it’s important to listen to the voice of the majority of physicians,” said Mark Bard, President of Manhattan Research.  “Rather than pulling the plug on a vital source of CME funding, the primary beneficiaries of CME - physicians and patients - would be best served by continued improvements to course availability, offerings, and content through increased collaboration among medical and academic organizations, the pharmaceutical industry, CME providers, and accreditation bodies.”

About the Study

Healthcare market research firm Manhattan Research conducted a survey to gauge physician opinion on commercially-funded CME and the proposed ban.   

The online survey was fielded in Q3 among a nationally representative sample of 904 U.S. physicians, including primary care and specialist audiences. Although we did not mandate strict demographic (age, region, practice setting) quotas reserved for very large global tracking studies, it naturally fell out very close to a national distribution on all those fronts.


They conduct numerous large physician studies on a global basis throughout the year using RDD (random digit dial) telephone recruiting, but for this study we actually pulled from a nationally representative sample using an ONLINE methodology. They increasingly use online for research in the U.S. given the online population of physicians mirrors the general physician population (99% are actively online in the U.S. today according to our RDD studies). For this study they recruited primary care and specialists from respondents within the online panel to ensure a mix of opinions. Although the physicians in the online panel are recruited from phone, fax, mail, and email they are in fact online given that they have to complete the actual survey instrument online.


The value of commercial support for certified CME of physicians is widely misunderstood by the media and policy makers.  Studies like this confirm the importance of commercial support of CME for physicians. 


Research:  Fact Sheet on Support for CME

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