Scientific progress is constantly reshaping clinical practice. Therefore, it is crucial that medical professionals continuously adapt to novel and better approaches for patient management. A hugely important part of a doctor’s development follows qualification and is provided by continuing medical education (CME), the role of which is to provide doctors with the latest knowledge and skills required to perform at the best of their abilities – something we all have a vested interest in.
It is crucial that all doctors are provided with high-quality and unbiased CME. However, providing CME is expensive, and is often not covered by the employer or the state. This has led to the medical industry playing a central role in providing the funding and support required for medical education. The most widely applied and accepted model of medical industry involvement is through unrestricted educational grants to CME providers, which include medical professional societies.
Medical professional societies’ fundamental role is to provide high quality medical education, through medical journals, digital resources, educational meetings, symposia and large specialty congresses. These societies are best placed to do this by virtue of their not-for-profit nature, constitutions, systems of governance and their fundamental duty to patients. However, to a significant degree, the development and delivery of CME by societies requires support from industry.
Recently, concerns about potential commercial bias have led to wide-ranging European initiatives to improve the transparency of the relationship between industry and medical professionals, which cover medical education. Unfortunately, these initiatives seem to have had the adverse effect of pushing industry towards cutting their unrestricted funded and taking a more direct role in the provision of CME.
As a member of the Biomedical Alliance, the European Association for the Study of the Liver acknowledges the importance of the relationship between medical professionals and industry, while arguing that medical education requires an unbiased and independent approach which is best delivered by medical professional societies. Policymakers must consider the risk of direct industry involvement in medical education. The medical industry’s primary responsibility to its stakeholders inevitably introduces bias and narrows the focus of training, which is often drug or device specific.
Protecting the role of medical professional societies is crucial for maintaining the independent education and training that promotes best practice across the world.