Senate investigation uncovers huge expenditures for Vytorin CME

As part of its investigation into continuing medical education (CME), the Senate Special Committee on Aging has uncovered extensive records of the vast sums of money spent by Merck/Schering Plough on CME programs for Vytorin from 2004 through 2007. The document, which was first reported by Jared A. Favole on Dow Jones newswires, provide a fascinating glimpse into the $60 million CME program. The documents also shed light on company expenditures for academic physicians serving as advisory board members to the companies.

CardioBrief has been able to view the document submitted to the senate committee. The document is over 100 pages in length and contains detailed lists of the thousands of CME grants made by the companies. The vast majority of the grants are relatively small– in the $1,000 – 5,000 range– and generally cover grand rounds and other similar activities. But a substantial number of the grants are breathtaking in their size.

The largest single item, a grant for $5,029,723, was made out to the “Health Science Center” for a “3rd Party CME Initiative (Part A).” Health Science Center is a commercial CME producer. Most of the largest grants are to private, for-profit medical education companies to support satellite symposia or similar online or print programs. The other category of large grants is to organizations like the AHA, ACC, ADA, ASH, and others. In his Dow Jones article, Favole quoted representatives from the ACC and from Merck stating that the companies had no control over the content of the programs.

Here are just a few of the large grants (all over $100,000) that started in the year 2004. (It is likely that some of the grants are for CME programs for cardiovascular drugs other than Vytorin.)

  • AHA (Get With the Guidelines) $150,000
  • American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (NP/PA CE/CME Initiaitve) $797,758
  • Postgraduate Institute for Medicine (Managed Care Coronary Heart Disease Activity) $ 798,516
  • GWU Medical Center Office (3rd Party CME Initiaitve (Part C) $884,650
  • Pri-Med Institute (Pri-Med Updates) $1,430,000
  • Medical Education Systems (ACC satellite) $375,000
  • Baylor College of Medicine (Web Based CME/CE Learning) $400,000
  • Baylor College of Medicine (Hypertension Online) $285,000
  • Rush University Medical Center (Lipid Management SAP) $225,000
  • AAFP (Coronary Artery Disease METRIC Program) $480,000
  • ASH (Regional Chapters Primary Care Regional Symposia Series) $250,000
  • Postgraduate Institute for Medicine (Aggressive Lipid Management; Improving Patient Outcomes Using Evidence Based Treatment) $390,000
  • Wolters Kluwer Health (AHA CME enduring material) 199,000
  • Medical Media Communications (AHA Satellite Symposium)- 429,000
  • Health Science Center (ACC satellite)-309,000
  • Assoc of Black Cardiologists (CME Regional Educational Symposia) $250,000
  • Postgraduate Institute for Medcine (Pri-Med Highlight CD ROM) $202,000
  • Consultants, Inc (Update on the Management of Hypertension: National Program) $500,000
  • American Society of Hypertension Satellite $234,000
  • Medical Education Systems (ADA Satellite Symposium 2004) $388,000

Here is a list of the primary external advisory board members listed in the document.


  • Christie Ballantyne
  • H. Bryan Brewer, Jr
  • B Greg Brown
  • Robert Califf
  • Christopher Cannon
  • David E Cohen
  • Michael Davidson
  • Margo Denke
  • John Dietschy
  • Sergio Fazio
  • Joanne Foody
  • Henry Ginsberg
  • Antonio Gotto
  • Ishwarlal Jialal
  • Ronald Krauss
  • Stephen Nicholls
  • Daniel Rader
  • Paul Ridker
  • Ernst Schaefer
  • Peter Paul Toth
  • Karol E. Watson

Europe, Middle East, and Africa

  • Adrian JB Brady
  • Alberico Catapano
  • Claudio Cortese
  • Amel B El Tayeb
  • Michael Farnier
  • Jean-Charles Fruchart
  • Y Antero Kesaniemi
  • Lawrence Leiter
  • Eran Leitersdorf
  • Luis Masana Marin
  • Terje Pedersen
  • Jose Manual Silva
  • Joachim Thiery

The document includes details for each individual for various lecturing and consulting fees. Generally these fees range from a few hundred dollars to as much as $8,000. These fees are presumably separate and distinct from any fees that may have been made for speaking at the CME programs listed above, which would have come from the medical education companies and not directly from Merck or Schering Plough.

Click here to read our coverage of the senate hearing.

Click here to read our editorial: Prescription for medical education: sunshine

Click here to go to the Policy and Medicine website, which contains links to CME disclosure information from several companies.


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  1. David Burns says:

    I take this drug. It was prescribed.


  1. […] grantees who took Vytorin money Posted on October 27, 2009 by Larry Husten Following the detailed disclosure of the vast sums of money spent on academic institutions and individual physicia…, Senator Grassley is now raising additional concerns about conflicts of interest involving 5 […]

  2. […] in Nature News by Brenda Borrell. Baylor headed to the NIH’s doghouse last fall, when a Senate investigation uncovered significant expenditures from Merck to Ballantyne and many other researchers. Senator Grassley then sent a query to NIH […]

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