Drug advertising, continuing medical education, and physician prescribing: a historical review and reform proposal

J Law Med Ethics. Winter 2010;38(4):807-15. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-720X.2010.00534.x.


Through the 1960s, many people claimed that drug advertising was educational and physicians often relied on it. Continuing Medical Education (CME) was developed to provide an alternative. However, because CME relied on grants, industry funders chose the subjects offered. Now policymakers worry that drug firms support CME to promote sales and that commercial support biases prescribing and fosters inappropriate drug use. A historical review reveals parallel problems between advertising and industry-funded CME. To preclude industry influence and improve CME, we should ensure independent funding by taxing medical industries, facilities and physicians. Independent public and professional authorities should create CME curricula. An independent agency should allocate all funds to educational institutions for approved curricula.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Advertising / history*
  • Advertising / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Conflict of Interest
  • Drug Industry / history*
  • Drug Industry / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Drug and Narcotic Control / history
  • Drug and Narcotic Control / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Education, Medical, Continuing / history*
  • Education, Medical, Continuing / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / history*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Training Support*
  • United States