GlaxoSmithKline is cutting off commercial CME providers, following Pfizer’s lead.

GSK said starting next year, it will fund only “independent” CME programs designed to close gaps in patient care, and that effective immediately, it will no longer fund CME executed by commercial providers, including medical education and communication companies.

“GSK will not support as many medical education programs, but we will continue funding those with the greatest potential to improve patient health,” said GSK president, North America Deirdre Connelly in a statement.

The company will invite grant applications from a pool of around 20 potential grant applicants limited to academic medical centers and affiliated teaching and patient care institutions as well as national medical societies and professional groups.

Pfizer announced a similar policy in 2008. As with Pfizer’s, GSK’s policy does not prohibit grant recipients from partnering with commercial providers. It is nonetheless a blow to commercial CME providers, also known as Medical Education and Communications Companies, which have come under pressure in recent years as a focal point in the broader assault on perceived conflicts of interest in the CME industry.

“It has a couple implications for MECCs,” says Tom Sullivan, president of Rockpointe Medical Education. “One is that MECCs will be partnering with universities and associations and taking more of a team approach, which we’re already doing, so that’s not the end of the world.” Another effect is that smaller specialty societies will probably be squeezed out under GSK’s cap on the number of providers it wants to work with, said Sullivan.

Publishing and education companies received $463 million in commercial support in 2008 – about 44% of the $1 billion doled out that year, according to data from the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education.