GlaxoSmithKline has announced plans to cut back on its funding for medical education programmes.

Starting next year, GSK says that it will “raise the bar and fund only independent medical education programmes that are clearly designed to close gaps in patient care, and that demonstrate support for the optimal performance of healthcare professionals”. Starting immediately, however, the drugs giant will cease funding to “commercial providers including medical education and communication companies”.

Specifically, GSK will invite grant applications from 20 providers “with a documented track record of developing and delivering high-quality medical education programmes that have a measurable impact on improved patient health”. Applicants will be limited to academic medical centres and their affiliated teaching and patient care institutions, as well as national-level professional medical associations.

Beginning in 2010, GlaxoSmithKline will accept grant applications from around 20 medical education providers, which will be restricted to academic medical centres and their affiliates, as well as certain national-level professional medical associations. "All selected providers must be directly accredited by a recognised accrediting body," the company added.

Deirdre Connelly, GSK's president of pharmaceuticals for North America, acknowledged that the firm “will not support as many medical education programmes, but we will continue funding those with the greatest potential to improve patient health”. She added that “this is one more step in our efforts to be more transparent in the way we operate our business and interact with healthcare providers”.

GSK’s announcement comes when the links between drugmakers and doctors have again come under the spotlight. A number of firms, notably Pfizer and Merck & Co, have also changed their strategy for funding educational programmes.