With the new year coming up for some of us (Happy Rosh Hashanah!), I thought I'd take the opportunity to point out some good news I noticed as I put together this issue. After being criticized by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee for its weak oversight process in 2007, the Accreditation Council for CME now seems to be gaining respect and recognition from the outside world, including regulatory and government bodies. Consider these examples.
In August, Massachusetts joined a growing list of states to enact legislation clamping down on pharmaceutical marketing practices. This law includes a physician gift ban, but allows for financial support of CME as long as it meets the's Standards for Commercial Support. That's quite a change from the earlier version of the law, which allowed no exception for CME in its outright ban on gifts to physicians. The change is in no small part due to the advocacy efforts of the Massachusetts Medical Society and is also a testament to the respect accorded the ACCME from the Massachusetts powers that be. (See story, page 13).
Then there's the updated Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America's Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals, released in July, which, like the Massachusetts law, says companies should follow the ACCME Standards when funding CME. It even incorporates ACCME's recent policy prohibiting providers from accepting any guidance from commercial supporters. What this means, say CME experts, is that CME providers and commercial supporters will be playing by the same rules. (See story, page 19.)
As part of its May settlement with attorneys general from 29 states and D.C. regarding the government's investigations relating to Vioxx marketing and promotion, Merck agreed to comply with the Standards for Commercial Support, which were actually attached to the court documents.
And surprisingly, there's a hint of good news for CME/industry collaboration coming out of Washington. It's been pretty clear from the letters to the ACCME from the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Committee on Aging that they suspected CME was a marketing tool, raising the specter of government regulation. But, in this issue, our columnist Stephen Lewis, a former lobbyist and U.S. Senate press secretary, reports on page 30 that in his recent discussions with Senate and committee staffers, he's found out that they do not aim to curtail commercial support. Rather, they want the ACCME to strengthen its enforcement actions. ACCME has ramped up its oversight process, as we reported in the July/August issue, and it appears those steps may be making an impression on national legislators.
Finally, the CME profession took a giant step forward when 70 leaders from all segments of the enterprise became the first to earn the new Certified CME Professional credential. (See page 24.) Congratulations to the first graduates and to all those in the CME community who have worked so hard to elevate the level of compliance, education, and professionalism, helping to ensure that the field continues to be self-regulated.