Changes in Drug Prescribing Patterns Related to Commercial Company Funding of Continuing Medical Education

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In order to determine the impact of commercial company funding of continuing medical education (CME) courses, a survey was undertaken. Drug prescribing rates for drugs related to course content were determined by self-report survey of physician attendees (374 in number) for three different CME courses. The survey was performed immediately before and six months after the courses. A single, though different, drug company provided the majority of the funding for each course. Courses I and III were related to calcium channel blockers and Course II to beta blockers. The return rate before Course I was 73.0 percent; after, 54.0 percent (unmatched). The return rate for Course II was 49.4 percent before and 42.9 percent after (unmatched). There were 121 (61.4%) matched returns for Course III. While the rates for prescribing some of the related drugs increased after the courses, overall the sponsoring drug company's products were favored. Although physicians attending CME and accredited sponsors of CME need to be aware of this potential influence, the final burden of adequate evaluation of drugs remains with the physician prescriber. Further studies should be done to substantiate the findings and elucidate the mechanism(s) of the increase in sponsoring company's drug prescriptions.

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