WHAT A YEAR!

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America issued its ethical code, the Office of the Inspector General released its draft guidance for pharmaceutical manufacturers, and numerous states have proposed legislation to rein in pharma influence on doctors. The American Medical Students Association, taking the most uncompromising stance of all, passed a policy prohibiting students from accepting any gifts from drug firms, saying that “the doctor-patient relationship is more important than a free pen.” (See “Legislatures Police Pharma Marketing,” page 18.) And, as 2003 began, the Accreditation Council for CME issued a draft of its new Standards for Commercial Support. Looking forward to the rest of 2003, I think there are two areas that deserve more attention from the CME community.

Speaker Honoraria

I commend the ACCME for introducing guidelines regarding conflict of interest in its new Standards. The draft states that those who have relationships with drug firms that create such a conflict should not serve as teachers. (See story on page 14.) However, while the Standards say that providers should have written policies governing honoraria, there are no guidelines as to acceptable fee ranges for CME faculty. Neither the PhRMA code nor the OIG guidance specifically address this issue either. Since honoraria issues involve industry, physicians, and providers, I think it would be beneficial if PhRMA, the AMA and other doctors' groups, and the ACCME issued a joint set of guidelines. They could include acceptable fee ranges and formulas for determining reasonable honoraria — without setting limits or impinging on our free market economy.

Meet the Press

As these developments continue, one thing we can be sure of is that the media will be watching. Which brings me to my second point. After receiving a call from a New York Times reporter who decided that a CME meeting in Cabo San Lucas must be a junket, I realized we need to educate the general media. The ACCME new Standards provide a perfect opportunity to inform journalists about the CME community's strong stand on the separation of education and promotion. How about creating a CME media relations task force, with members representing all parties, who are trained in dealing with the press? Members could give interviews, develop an informational press packet, and convene a roundtable with reporters to discuss how complex CME issues are often misrepresented in media coverage.

Media For You

We have created a new design, which we hope will help you quickly find the articles that interest you most. At the suggestion of editorial director Betsy Bair, we divided MM into sections: CME, Meeting Management, and Sites & Venues. In alternate issues, beginning with March/April, we will also offer a section on pharma meetings. Sharon Carlson, art director, created the colorful, appealing new look, and Barbara L. Brewer, recently promoted to managing editor, shepherded this issue through production, ensuring that our words were as clear as our graphics. As always, I welcome your input.

Best wishes for a safe, healthy 2003.

Best wishes for a safe and healthy 2003.