Non-accredited commercial providers have nearly two years to comply with new medical education rules affecting their ability to jointly sponsor activities, regulators said yesterday.

The guidance, released on the Web site of the Accreditation Council for CME (ACCME), pertained to ACCME’s new definition of a commercial interest as it relates to joint sponsors. Since non-accredited providers now have until August 2009 to determine their status under the revised definition, the agency offered this group, along with those who partner with them, some breathing room.

Additionally, ACCME’s new guidance allows joint sponsors falling within the new definition of a commercial interest to modify their corporate structures “so that the CME component of their organization will be an independent entity.” That means creating firewalls. The ACCME also said that, upon request, it would help a non-accredited entity determine if it is a commercial interest.

The status of joint sponsors—non-ACCME accredited providers that engage with accredited providers to plan and present activities—had been cloudy since the ACCME’s Aug. 24 policy update containing the redefinition of a commercial interest. That was followed by a set of FAQs issued Oct. 15 by ACCME stating that a commercial interest cannot be a joint sponsor.

Industry representatives had been told by ACCME staff that, starting Jan. 1, joint sponsorships with medical education and communication companies that are commercial interests would be verboten under the ACCME’s new definition.

That was simply not enough time for joint sponsors to make the legal, managerial and other changes necessary to establish “sister companies” and have them reviewed by each of their accredited providers, argued the Coalition for Healthcare Communication in petitioning ACCME for a moratorium on the implementation of those new requirements.

Yesterday’s guidance held non-accredited providers to the same deadline as accredited providers, who also were given until Aug. 2009 to bring their organizations into compliance with the ACCME’s new definition, as well as to ensure that all joint sponsors be in compliance.