Conflicts of interest: Probing Promotion

Anxiety continues to swirl among commercially supported CME providers as the Institute of Medicine's inquiry into conflicts of interest in medical research and med ed moves forward. 

In March, the IOM held the third of its six planned meetings on the topic. 

The group aims to produce a report that will propose principles to inform the design of medical education policies, guidelines and other tools to identify and “manage conflicts of interest” in these contexts without damaging constructive collaboration with industry.

According to the Coalition for Healthcare Communication's executive director John Kamp. there's a very serious effort afoot to force all commercial support and all of the MECCs out of it. “With the involvement of the IOM, it's no longer just discussion in the halls of academe,” Kamp recently told MM&M

Tom Sullivan, president of med ed firm Rockpointe said he sees election year posturing at play in the inquest. “Some of these people are leveraging themselves into position for the next administration,” Sullivan said in a recent interview with MM&M. “All these documents they're amassing will be used against us in 2009 for legislation to further restrict industry contacts with doctors.”

Industry advocates also argue that the would-be reformers discount the strict guidelines recently imposed on sponsors and providers by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), which don't address conflict of interest directly but prohibit sponsors from suggesting faculty or reviewing content and require disclosure of any conflicts a speaker might have.

“Those of us in the CME community have faced many challenges over the recent years,” Lisa Emusov, managing director of newly formed med ed firm IME, LLC, said in a statement. “The healthcare environment is changing rapidly, triggering critical concerns regarding patient safety, as well as the cost and overall quality of patient care. As education providers, we must understand clinicians' evolving needs.”

Karen Overstreet, president of Indicia Medical Education and past president of the North American Association of Medical Education and Communication Companies remained hopeful following IOM's meeting in March. “I think the great majority of (meeting) participants came to be in favor of having clinicians disclose their relationships rather than banning industry relationships in total.”
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