Purpose: To obtain prospective evidence of whether industry support of continuing medical education (CME) affects perceptions of commercial bias in CME activities.
Method: The authors analyzed information from the CME activity database (346 CME activities of numerous types; 95,429 participants in 2007) of a large, multispecialty academic medical center to determine whether a relationship existed among the degree of perceived bias, the type of CME activity, and the presence or absence of commercial support.
Results: Participants per activity ranged from 1 to 3,080 (median: 276). When asked the yes/no question, “Overall, was this activity satisfactorily free from commercial bias?” 97.3% to 99.2% (mean: 98.4%) of participants answered “yes.” In responding on a four-point scale to the request, “Please rate the degree to which this activity met the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education requirement that CME activities must be free of commercial bias for or against a specific product,” 95.8% to 99.3% (mean: 97.2%) of participants answered “excellent” or “good.” When analyzed by type of funding relative to commercial support—none (149), single source (79), or multiple source (118)—activities were deemed to be free of commercial bias by 98% (95% CI: 97.3, 98.8), 98.5% (97.5, 99.5), and 98.3% (97.4, 99.1) of participants, respectively. None of the comparisons showed statistically significant differences.
Conclusions: This large, prospective analysis found no evidence that commercial support results in perceived bias in CME activities. Bias level seem quite low for all types of CME activities and is not significantly higher when commercial support is present.