OIG Chief Counsel Gives Senate Testimony on Commercial Sponsorship of Continuing Medical Education

On July 29, 2009, Lewis Morris, chief counsel, Office of Inspector General (OIG) testified before the Senate about the risks of commercial sponsorship of continuing medical education (CME) and solutions for ensuring a more bona fide educational purpose.

He cited one study suggesting that “the return on investment for pharmaceutical promotional strategies indicates that spending $1 on physician events and meetings, including CME, generated an average of $3.56 in increased revenue.”

Morris also cited several instances where sponsoring health care education can lead to pharmaceutical fraud, with companies promoting off-label uses of products, such as medications, as well as criminal kickbacks to physicians and others.

“The surest way to eliminate commercial bias in CME is to eliminate industry sponsorship by funders who have a significant financial interest in physicians’ clinical decisions,” according to Morris, who admits that, without being able to rely on industry sponsorship, CME providers would need to identify alternative sources of funds to maintain the availability of CME.

In his testimony, Morris recommends approaches which would allow continued access to industry funding for CME, but limit industry’s ability to influence how that money is used and what messages physicians receive.

For the entire testimony, go to: http://oig.hhs.gov/testimony/docs/2009/07292009_oig_testimony.pdf.

For more information about qui tam law and health care fraud, contact Nolan and Auerbach, PA.