JAMA editorial critiques tobacco industry CME funding

A commentary published July 8 in JAMA is critiquing the use of tobacco company funding for continuing medical education credits (CME).

In the opinion, Robert Jackler, MD, of Stanford University, urged accredited CME providers to "adopt policies prohibiting tobacco industry funding of health care professional education."

"The tobacco industry has a long history of undermining science to promote its products, the leading cause of preventable disease and premature death in the U.S., indicating inherently unresolvable conflicts incompatible with education of clinicians or sponsorship of certified CME."

Earlier this year, medical media firm Medscape promoted a series of CME courses funded by a $3 million grant from Philip Morris International (PMI). The courses were certified by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), and included one titled "Health Impact of Tobacco Products: What Do We Know in 2024?"

Following public protest, on May 14 Medscape scrapped the program (according to a report by Health Policy Watch) and on May 31, its group manager of education stated that "the company had permanently removed the PMI-sponsored courses from its website, notified learners of the funding source and that courses had been removed, returned all funds from the PMI grant, and instituted a policy that Medscape Education will no longer accept funds from or work with the tobacco industry or its affiliates," Jackler noted.

"It is unfortunate that Medscape has opened a door allowing the tobacco giant PMI to enter the world of CME," he wrote. "This worrisome precedent, if not promptly halted, will no doubt be increasingly exploited by tobacco corporations for public relations to burnish their tarnished reputations, to suppress health care opposition to their business goals, and to influence regulators/legislators to adopt more permissive policies."

Disclosure: Jackler has received compensation from state attorneys general and federal multidistrict litigation for serving as an expert witness in litigation against e-cigarette manufacturer Juul.

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