Getting to Grips with Grants

Providers are wrestling most with the way pharmaceutical companies have restructured their grant procedures, according to MM&M's annual survey of medical education firms. A majority (60%) of the 68 respondents to the question this year referred to grantors' formal mechanisms for reviewing grants as being their greatest challenge. That's a big change from last year, when only one in 10 companies cited grant-request requirements as major hurdle.

“Navigating the new grant processes, which differ from company to company” was a familiar refrain among this group, whose struggles fell into three key areas: the overall review process (58%); the inconsistency between review systems (32%); and managing time lines (10%).

The changing regulatory climate continues to have a vexing effect, with 19% of the 68 firms citing the grantor's response to various rules and guidelines as their main bugaboo.

The way grantors insist on separating promotional education from other activities irked others. “Med ed companies are often relegated to one project or another, and this undermines the strategic impact of a strong med ed plan,” one provider lamented.

Of the 57 firms that commented on grant approval times, 82% said the process is taking longer, by anywhere from six weeks to nine months, with a mere 7% reporting shorter times. “Companies with sound grant processes are faster; those with new or developing processes are slower,” commented one respondent.

Despite these inconveniences, many indicated commercial support is up. Of 56 respondents to this question, 41% reported a rise in funding. One noted sponsors “remain committed” to “cutting-edge” education. Others suggested that grantors' unease with compliance issues may be wearing off. Still, a number continue to struggle with tighter budgets. One in four noted a decline, while 34% said funding was unchanged.

As for the types of activities being funded, many firms commented on a trend toward Web-based programs developed in multiple formats, though most say live events continue to be the industry standard.

All data taken from responses to open questions. Not a scientific analysis.

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