Plenary Session:
How Physicians Learn about Drugs
By Tamar Hosansky, Editor, Medical Meetings Magazine

MONTREAL—Treatment that is not evidence-based—those not based on randomized trials with clinical outcomes—can hurt or kill patients. That was the unequivocal message delivered by Desmond E. Thompson, PhD, Senior Director, Medical Communications Department, Merck Research Laboratories, Philadelphia.

Expanding on Dr. Guyatt's themes in the session about evidence—based medicine, Dr. Thompson said that "We need to teach physicians to discriminate between types of evidence." For example, physicians need to pay attention to a clinical trial's surveillance program and dropout rate. Citing a trial with a strong surveillance program, Dr. Thompson said that patients were followed every month and that the dropout rate was less than 2%.

Thus, when assessing the reliability of the evidence, physicians need to find out if all patients who entered the trial were accounted for at its conclusion, what the drop out rates were, and why the patients dropped out. He added, when follow-up data is lost during a trial "no amount of statistical magic can bring it back."

Pharma's Dream CME Event

The next presentation also focused on the pharma perspective -- this time exploring the return on investment industry expects from CME. The way industry measures the value of a CME activity is changing, said David L. Schlumper, MS, Senior Program Manager, Serono Symposia International, Rockland, Mass.

While collecting numbers used to be enough, industry now wants more detailed information. Providers need to analyze the numbers, interpret the data, and synthesize the numbers into information.

While a commercial supporter's dream CME event would result in a huge jump in scriptwriting for its drug, there are numerous other ways to measure an activity's effectiveness, he said. The spectrum of measurement includes everything from attendance to a change in patient outcomes. For instance, a CME provider could demonstrate a good ROI for a live event by presenting this data: attendance cost $700 or less per person, participants' satisfaction rate was 90% or better, 85% or more attendees claimed the program was nonbiased, and 50% or more reported they were willing to make a change in practice.