For the first time, the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education is initiating a review of the entire commercial support system, considering options ranging from leaving the process intact, all the way to prohibiting industry funding entirely. Theoutlined the action plan in a letter to the Senate Finance Committee, in response to the committee's concern that the pharmaceutical industry is controlling educational content. (See story, page 16.)
Since providers rely on industry grants for 50 percent of their income, according to the 2006 ACCME annual data report, the outcome of this review will have a tremendous effect on CME's future. The good news for CME professionals is that the ACCME wants everyone in the enterprise involved in creating solutions, and it will form work groups and forums to debate the issues.
I urge all stakeholders to get involved. Whether you join one of ACCME's forums, initiate a discussion group with your co-workers or local colleagues, or consider these issues on your own, step back and reflect. Go beyond the knee-jerk reaction of: Oh no, my world will fall apart without commercial support. Ask yourself: How does commercial support affect your program and your job? What would happen if it were taken away? What would you do differently if you had funding from other sources? Give yourself and your colleagues free rein to express unpopular and unconventional opinions and ideas. When analyzing proposals, don't only examine how they would improve the perception of CME with the government, the public, and the media — ask how they would benefit physician competence and patient care.
Some providers have already disallowed commercial support; some have developed sophisticated strategies for bias prevention. Learn from providers' best practices; research how various segments of the healthcare system and other industries have handled conflicts of interest.
I hope the ACCME takes the time that is needed to address these extremely complex issues and does not rush to judgment, adding layers of rules and bureaucracy that will only serve to choke the fluidity and effectiveness of CME. It will require the creativity, expertise, and passion of CME professionals across the spectrum to come up with solutions that really work. To do our part, we'll offer a print forum where you can share your recommendations. To participate, contact me at email@example.com.
On another note, you've probably already noticed that MM has been redesigned. I hope you enjoy our bold, energetic new look, which gives us the flexibility to bring you more of the targeted editorial you've asked for. In the front section, Vitals, you'll find CME and pharma industry regulatory news. Our Consult section offers advice and perspectives from CME andexperts. In our cover stories and features, we'll continue to focus on topics directed to our various reader segments: CME professionals, and medical meeting managers within associations and pharmaceutical companies. Many thanks to the editorial and art teams at MM and its sister magazines for the talent, inventiveness, and dedication behind this redesign: Group Design Director John Herr, Art Directors Joan Lockhart and Sharon Carlson, Editorial Director Betsy Bair, and my editorial colleagues Barbara Scofidio, Sue Hatch, Regina Baraban, Kristen Payson, and Barbara Brewer.
In more good news, Medical Meetings' former executive editor, Sue Pelletier, has won her fourth award from the American Society of Business Publication Editors, a gold award, Northeast region, for her January/February 2006 cover story “Bias? What Bias?” Congrats, Sue!