The impact of commercial support on the provision and outcomes of continuing pharmacy education
Smith, Jayne Langford
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There is a rising debate over the growing involvement of the pharmaceutical industry in the development and delivery of continuing education designed to improve a health professional’s practice and thus, patient care. Emerging policies and regulations that govern the planning of continuing education for physicians and pharmacists center on the potential conflict of interest when educational and promotional activities are integrated. This quantitative study investigates the impact of commercial support on the provision and outcomes of continuing pharmacy education. A 64-item questionnaire was developed to measure two constructs, Planning Practices and Consequences. The survey was administered online to accredited providers of continuing pharmacy education and responses from 134 accredited providers were included in the statistical analysis. The respondents reported that approximately 43% of their continuing pharmacy education programs, or 2,740 programs, received commercial support. Acceptance of commercial support was prevalent among all types of accredited provider organizations and only 14% of respondents reported that their organization received no commercial support for continuing pharmacy education programs. Although the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education requires that program providers review all instructional content and materials prior to program delivery, only 43% of respondents reported that they always conduct such a review for their commercially-supported programs. In addition, 15% of respondents reported that they never conduct such a review prior to delivery of a commercially-supported program. Some accredited providers report that they also violate relevant guidelines and release control to a pharmaceutical company when they allow other questionable and/or unacceptable practices in the development and implementation of their commercially-supported continuing pharmacy education programs and activities. For example, 31% of respondents reported that a program speaker provided preferential treatment of the supporting pharmaceutical company’s product and 21% reported that a program speaker omitted discussion of a relevant product sold by a competing pharmaceutical company in at least some of their programs. Commercial support of continuing pharmacy education was also thought to have significant and diverse consequences for provider organizations, pharmacists and patients. Three dimensions of these consequences were revealed through exploratory factor analysis including Cost of Drugs, Quality of Pharmaceutical Care and Financial Dependency.