New policy targets them, MECCs charge

With a two-year countdown ticking until a new med-ed policy takes effect, for-profit providers were taking stock of how they can comply. While clarity has been forthcoming, some in the med-ed community say another sought-after goal eludes them: parity.

In that regard, the situation hasn't changed much since April, when groups including the Coalition for Healthcare Communication lobbied the Accreditation Council for CME (ACCME) to apply its expanded definition of a “commercial interest” more evenly.

In a response notable for its forcefulness, Marty Cearnal, co-chair of the coalition's CME committee, charged that the policy creates “two classes of CME providers,” those for whom conflict of interest rules require action and those for whom they do not.

Murray Kopelow, MD, ACCME executive director, disagreed, saying the policy can include, “but is not limited to,” for-profit CME providers owned by or having a “business unit that does promotional work for commercial interests.”

Read: advertising agencies could have to create new holding companies to own their accredited provider (MM&M October 2007).

Most vexing to medical education and communication companies (MECCs), the executive director maintained that such requirements were relevant to all accredited providers “if the new definition of ‘commercial interest' applies to them.” Publishing companies, too, (but not journals like NEJM or JAMA) may need to restructure if their parent or sister company is engaged in an agency relationship. ACCME already groups MECCs with publishers in a single category, “Publishing/Education Company,” though.

The semantic brouhaha over the policy, part of a set of updates adopted in August, is not trivial; commercial interests may not be accredited.

Kopelow's talk at last month's AMA National Task Force meeting (scheduled to occur after press time), as well as the ACCME board's gathering this month, could offer further clarification.

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