ACCME tables logo ban again

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Andy Rosenberg
Andy Rosenberg

The ACCME said its board decided, after a wave of feedback, to defer a ban on use of corporate logos in educational materials, disclosures and acknowledgement of commercial support.

It's the second time in three years that the ACCME board punted on the ban. The last time a logo ban was put forth for comment, in 2011, 68 people gave their views. The largest group (25) disagreed with the ACCME proposal that providers state the name of the commercial supporter in text format only.

This time around, the response was considerably larger. The accreditor began accepting public comments on whether to adopt the prohibition this past December.

By the time the comment period closed January 31, the ACCME had received responses from 227 people, about a third of which opposed the change. In addition, an informal online survey fielded last spring, prior to the formal call for comment, drew about 300 mostly supportive responses.

However, those in favor of holding onto logos included a couple of organizations representing thousands of members. The Council of Medical Specialty Societies (CMSS), with 39 Member Societies representing 750,000 physicians in the US, said removing logos could be "counterproductive," while the Society for Academic CME (SACME) said that the ACCME position should reflect the principles outlined in the CME Coalition's Responsible Logo Use Guidelines.

The proposal was tabled “pending further discussion,” the accreditor said last week, a move cheered by some in the CME community.

“The CME Coalition applauds the ACCME for the deliberative and thoughtful way that it's approaching this issue and appreciates that they're clearly taking into account the stakeholder concern that we see among our membership for removing logos from the material,” said Andy Rosenberg, senior advisor to the coalition, whose membership includes 12 CME companies and six pharmaceutical companies that support certified med ed.

Those who agreed with the changes told the ACCME that banning logos would minimize any possibility of conflict of interest, eliminate ambiguity, and decrease participants' perception of real or perceived bias.

“A corporate logo equates to advertising or branding,” wrote one accredited provider. “If advertising is prohibited, the use of logos should be prohibited” and, if so, the ban could result “in more trust in the validity of the educational content being delivered.”

Those opposed said that the current standards were sufficient and expressed concerns that prohibiting commercial-interest logos would decrease transparency and disclosure. They also said it could make it more difficult to distinguish between CME that is commercially supported and CME that is not.

Should a ban be enforced, it could bury the commercial supporter in a “sea of text,” wrote one.

Added another, “The logo serves as a [sic] indicator as to which for-profit company is providing support for the educational activity and without it participants must extensively search for this information.”

Outlawing logos would have required changes to the ACCME's Standards for Commercial Support. Those who backed the use of logos said doing so strengthens the perception of the value of the standards.

The board did adopt changes to simplify the accreditation requirements and process, including removing some of the accreditation criteria and policy requirements and streamlining the process of applying for initial accreditation.

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