ACC nixes current model of CME satellite symposia

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In a move aimed at better educating its members and reducing confusion between independent, CME-certified medical education and non-independent promotional events, the American College of Cardiology (ACC) is eliminating its traditional model for CME-certified satellite symposia at the Annual Scientific Session.

The new model will consist of CME-certified satellite symposia developed and certified by ACC, and offered through a new “in-depth” learning format within the Annual Scientific Session. Non-certified promotional events in different locations will also be permitted and will be overseen by the college's business development division.

The changes resulted from a three-year evaluation of educational satellite symposia headed up by chief learning officer Joseph Green, PhD. Until now, medical education companies, cardiovascular subspecialty societies and academic medical centers have been responsible for planning and developing satellite events, including managing grants processes.

“Our decision was the result of a thoughtful and comprehensive assessment of the ambiguous nature of traditional Satellite Symposia, which we feel puts us, and our Industry supporters, at greater regulatory risk and potentially confused our member learners,” noted Green and associate VP Elizabeth Yarboro in an email to MM&M explaining the changes, which will go into effect next year at ACC.12 and i2 Summit. The changes should also free up member and staff time previously devoted to oversight of these events.

ACC said it has been tweaking its old model for CME-certified satellite symposia for the last three years to make it less susceptible to commercial influence. Since 2008 there has been no contact by ACC, either directly or indirectly, with company grantors during planning, only with the outside CME providers that have managed the process.

In subsequent years, the model was further tightened to make providers submit satellite-symposium applications to course chairs and accreditation and education staff. The college has also closely monitored the approval process for compliance with ACCME guidelines and policies.

Moreover, a rule requiring pharma or device firms to be an exhibitor or sponsor of some other promotional activity as a condition for requesting space for CME-certified satellite symposia was ended in 2007, Green and Yarboro noted. Grantors had balked at the policy, which was an apparent contradiction of ACCME rules prohibiting promotion as a condition of commercial support for CME activities.

The new “in-depth” learning format will offer certified-CME satellite symposia that are planned and developed by ACC committees, rather than by outside providers. Non-certified, direct-to-industry opportunities remain the second option and are governed by FDA and OIG regulations. “The intent is to provide opportunities for both, but be very unambiguous and transparent about the purpose and oversight of each,” wrote Green and Yarboro.

Asked whether CME-certified satellite activities developed under the new ACC-developed format will accept commercial support, they replied that funding from industry is not what drove them to their decision.

Since the majority of the college's CME activities take support, including the Annual Meeting/i2 Summit, they wrote, “we do not anticipate any changes to our criteria for independent grant support. We believe that industry support is perfectly acceptable—it's how these activities are designed, developed and implemented with that support that distinguishes truly independent medical education.”

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