The American Medical Association has shied away from another internal report on physicians’ reliance on industry funding for continuing medical education. The report, a weakened version of the Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs’ original call to end industry-supported CME, breaks industry support of CME into “ethically preferable” and “ethically permissible” categories. It says that physicians with “modest financial interests” in a drug or device company should be allowed to give CME talks as long as they disclose those conflicts, and that there is no problem with physicians attending events as long as the provider (read: MECC or academic medical center) is “not overly reliant on industry sources.”

But even this wishy-washy language was rejected this week by the AMA House of Delegates, which referred it back to the Council with instructions to try again (and a suggestion from one delegate to maybe lay off using the word “ethically” so much because it made docs uncomfortable).

This isn’t the first time this has happened. As we wrote here before, a 2007 CEJA report recommending “Individual physicians and institutions of medicine, such as medical schools, teaching hospitals, and professional organizations (including state and medical specialty societies) must not accept industry funding to support professional education activities” was rejected before ever getting to the House of Delegates, and the Council was asked to rethink its recommendations with help from the AMA Committee on Continuing Medical Education. The chair of CEJA changed, the original report was pulled from the website, and an interim signal this spring that industry support would be allowed was followed by an after-the-fact request for comments.

The AMA has lagged behind the profession on other conflict-of-interest issues, and this latest rejection just puts more distance between the AMA and other leaders in the medical profession who have acknowledged the problem of reliance on the drug and device industry for medical education, and taken real steps to change [here and here, for example].

Dr. Daniel Carlat, who’s been following this over at The Carlat Psychiatry Blog, writes:

‘Presumably, the next report will not dare to even mention ethics and industry funding in the same breath. I predict that the entire report will be brief and to the point: “Industry funding of CME is necessary for the public health.’