Bowman144 analysed the content of two continuing medical education sessions on calcium channel blockers, funded by different companies, and taught by faculty members. In one of the courses the funding company’s drug was mentioned many more times than other medicines. In both courses the clinical effect ascribed to the funding company’s drug were more positive. There were few comparative statements made, but most favoured the funding company’s drug. This bias was in spite of university policies being instituted between the courses that required the institution rather than the company to control the course content. Bowman and Pearle145 then examined self-reported changes in prescribing patterns related to three company-funded continuing medical education courses. The method they used is not very satisfactory. They attempted to ask course participants before, and six months after each course, about their prescribing of the group of drugs covered in the course. For two courses there was no matching of responses from individuals pre and post the course, and the response rates were not high. Bowman and Pearle conclude that in all three courses the sponsoring company’s drug had the greatest increase in absolute terms. However, some increases occurred in prescribing of other company’s drugs. This study is limited by its reliance on self-report instead of prescribing data. Participants may have wanted to please the authors by saying that they prescribe more of the drug that was presented as the best at the course, if the authors were also the course organizers (this is unclear in the papers).
CONCLUSION: Sponsorship may affect the content of continuing medical education. More research is needed to examine this.