The Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) ratified a revision of its Standards for Commercial Support that some fear could effectively prohibit physicians accepting honoraria from drug companies from conducting accredited CME.
The provision, intended to bolster the independence of CME providers from commercial bias, is included not in the main body of the standards, but in a question-and-answer backgrounder. The Q&A states that speakers must disclose from the podium any financial relationship that they, a partner or spouse have had with a commercial interest in the past 12 months "and only make clinical recommendations that are supported by systematic reviews," balancing their conclusions with the best available evidence.
Companies and providers fear that the standards could have a chilling effect on provision of commercial CME by driving many of the best speakers from the stage. "These are profound conclusions that professors and practicing clinicians would find an insult," said John Kamp, executive director for the Coalition for Healthcare Communications.
The rewrite comes at a time of increasing scrutiny toward pharmaceutical companies' CME sponsorship among Department of Justice investigators.
The revisions offered measured relief to medical publishers. The ACCME chose not to prohibit print ads on pages facing articles in printed CME, as publishers had feared, nor do the revised standards address the maintenance of "firewalls" between CME and promotional activities.