In the current landscape of stricter pharmaceutical industry guidelines and intense scrutiny, continuing medical education providers are changing the way they conduct meetings and CME. In the past few weeks, a handful of providers have announced strategic policy shifts related to commercial support, sponsorships, and meetings. Here’s a rundown.

The American Psychiatric Association announced on March 25 that it would be phasing out industry-supported CME symposia along with industry-supplied meals at its annual meeting. The move is designed to increase transparency and reduce potential conflicts of interest. “Although we took great care to avoid biased reporting at all our symposia, we came to the conclusion that the only way to totally eliminate the risk is to have the symposia supported by the APA alone,” said Nada Stotland, MD, MPH, president, APA, in a press release.

APA won’t be accepting industry funds for meals at CME symposia either. “There is a perception that accepting meals provided by pharmaceutical companies may have a subtle influence on doctors’ prescribing habits,” said James Scully Jr., MD, medical director and CEO, APA. The timeline for phasing out industry-supported symposia and meals is still in development but will likely take a couple of years, said an APA spokesperson.

Johns Hopkins Medicine adopted a new policy, which goes into effect July 1, 2009, that limits interactions with industry. Among the restrictions, physicians at JHM are prohibited from accepting gifts or entertainment—including meals—regardless of value, from pharmaceutical and medical device companies. Also, consulting arrangements that carry personal compensation “but no real duties” are prohibited, and, starting in 2010, JHM will no longer accept free pharmaceutical samples except under limited circumstances.

Regarding CME, the new policy features several changes. Industry can still support CME, but now, all noncredit educational events supported by industry must also adhere to Accreditation Council for CME standards and go through central review at the school’s office of CME. Further, JHM employees may not speak at industry-sponsored programs if the sponsoring company dictates or has final approval over the content. The intent of the changes is not to discourage “principled partnerships” with industry, but to “limit the impact of industry marketing influence,” said Julie Gottlieb, assistant dean and director of the JHM Office of Policy Coordination, in a press release.

In Boston, Partners Healthcare system also updated its policy on interactions with industry. The new policy bans gifts to physicians, including meals, and prohibits faculty participation in industry speakers bureaus. Regarding CME, the new policy requires funds for educational programs to go through a centrally pooled “President’s Fund” at each hospital in the system, and it creates a new Conflict of Interest Review Committee to oversee all industry interactions.

Finally, USA Today published an article about how the American College of Cardiology is no longer accepting industry sponsorships for lanyards and tote bags at its annual meeting. In the Lewin Report on ACC’s Web site, ACC CEO Jack Lewin writes about why ACC turned away a half a million dollars in sponsorships for its 2009 annual meeting. He also responds to the recent Journal of the American Medical Association’s article on associations’ relationships with industry.