It's important to distinguish certified continuing medical education (CME) vs. promotional medical education (sorry, no acronym for this one). The phrase "med ed" is often used in the world of biotech/pharma to refer to both. Hence, it gets to be very confusing when you're talking about medical education.
To add to the confusion, the phrase "continuing medical education" is also thrown around for both certified CME and promotional med ed. This trend is changing among professionals who work in this industry. In fact, we now have CME professionals who are receiving a certification as a "certified CME professional" or CCMEP. Who offers this certification? The National Commission for Certification of CME Professionals, Inc. (NC-CME) began designating qualified individuals last summer.
So what's the difference between CME vs. promotional medical education? This list could be very long, but let me try to keep this succinct:
Credit and certificates:
- Certified CME must be reviewed and approved by a certifying body (often referred to as a credit provider approved by the ACCME). Such certifying bodies may include medical universities, professional medical societies/associations, private companies/institutions, etc.
- With certified CME activities, you'll receive a "certificate" for the type of credit that applies to you (such as AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™). You won't be getting any certificates for promotional activities.
- Certified CME can be used towards medical licensure renewal. For instance, the state of Pennsylvania requires 100 hrs of CME credits each year.
- Promotional medical education is regulated by the FDA. Promotional activities generally refer to traditional "dinner meetings" and other types of industry-supported educational events that are not CME-certified. You may have seen some e-detailing programs on the Internet. Don't get these confused with CME-certified activities. You'll learn about new drugs/therapies based on FDA-approved uses. You won't be hearing about any off-label use of drugs.
- In the world of certified CME, you may learn about off-label use (as long as it's evidence-based). However, CME is never meant to be a form of off-label promotion.
- Certified CME is designed to be evidence-based and fair-balanced. Whether it's industry supported or not industry supported, CME should not have any bias.
- Promotional education often tends to also be evidence-based, but it may not always reflect peer-reviewed evidence. In other words, there are many clinical studies that never get published in any type of peer-reviewed journal. Such proprietary data may only reside within a pharmaceutical company and it may get shared at dinner meetings.