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As the opioid crisis dawned in the U.S., continuing educational material that doctors are required to review may have contributed to the burgeoning problem, according to a newly published study.

How so? The study compared a continuing medical education module, or course, that was funded by a drug maker that sold a fentanyl lollipop and lozenge with practice guidelines issued by a medical society. The scope of the two publications was not completely identical, but both focused on the use of opioids in treating non-cancer pain. And the study found the industry-funded course contained a “subtle bias.”


Study participants were split into two groups and asked to review key messages. Their summaries of key messages were “strikingly different” when discussing benefits and harms of opioids. Nine of 12 people who read the practice guidelines, which were not funded by industry, noted the effectiveness of opioids for chronic pain was unclear, compared with none who read the CME course.

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