Are medical societies violating the rules when they solicit satellite symposia funding from pharmaceutical companies?
Yuma Sweethart, the new marketing director for Scoliosis: the Association for Spine Specialists International (SASSI), wants to impress top-level management by increasing revenue from satellite symposia at the organization's fall 2009 conference. SASSI is an Accreditation Council for CME-accredited provider with commendation, but it does not provide credit for its satellite events. Rather, other CME providers conduct the events at night as adjuncts to the SASSI programming.
Ms. Sweethart sends a solicitation letter to all previous exhibitors and to her existing contacts in U.S.-based orthopedic companies and device manufacturers. She is thrilled when many of them respond that they definitely want a satellite event and that they will process the $40,000 fee immediately. She responds to her colleagues, thanking them and saying that their support will be acknowledged in the program book and society journal as it usually is — the name and time of the event will be listed, along with the commercial sponsor.
Follow the Fees
Is it acceptable for the society to solicit funding for symposia from supporters rather than working with providers for these activities?
Overstreet: Jackie, I see situations like this one with surprising frequency. Some societies are still soliciting support without involving the providers and educational partners that will be conducting the event. When the society is not the accredited provider of the satellite event, I don't think this practice is acceptable given the current CME environment.
Perochka: The marketing folks of some societies and other types of providers may be confused about the differences between exhibit agreements for promotional purposes and letters of agreement (LOAs) for educational activities.
Overstreet: I would not want to participate in planning an event for which the supporter had already “secured the space” and paid the fee before the provider was involved and the LOA was signed.
Should supporters be paying the society fees for symposia “slots”?
Overstreet: I think it is inappropriate for the supporter to pay the fee directly to the society. The fee is part of the cost of the overall educational intervention and should be paid by the provider as part of its fiduciary responsibility for the activity.
Perochka: I concur — providers pay for facilities for their events, and symposia fees are the cost of the space and services provided by the society.
Is the commercial supporter acknowledgement provided by the society appropriate?
Perochka: If the satellite symposia are certified for credit by other accredited providers, then those providers should acknowledge their supporters.
Overstreet: The society should definitely include the name of the accredited provider in its announcements. Of course, all recruitment efforts for an activity should be under the control of the provider.
Karen Overstreet, EdD, RPh, FACME, CCMEP, is president, Indicia Medical Education LLC, North Wales, Pa. Reach her at Karen.Overstreet@indiciaed.com
Jacqueline Parochka, EdD, FACME, is president and CEO, Excellence in Continuing Education Ltd., Gurnee, Ill.; and partner, PTR Educational Consultants. Reach her at JacquelineParochka@comcast.net.