Dr. Mary Myelin, a professor of neurology at Brainiac College of Medicine, recently published a book that outlines the mechanisms of action, safety, and efficacy of all newly developed drugs and devices used to treat a variety of neurological diseases. Synapse Sciences Inc., which funded the text's publication, manufactures many of the products described in it. Dr. Gary Ganglion, who is director of Neurology at Getwell Medical Center, is familiar with Dr Myelin's work, and has invited her to present at the institution's monthly “Brain Teasers” conference. The conference is supported in part by small grants from a variety of companies, including SSI. When Dr. Ganglion arrives early for the meeting to make certain there is ample coffee and breakfast foods, he is astonished to find Dr. Myelin already in the meeting room unpacking boxes of her new book. When Dr. Ganglion questions what she is doing, Dr. Myelin replies, “Making certain I have a place to display my new book and autograph copies before and after the CME event.” When Dr. Ganglion explains that the book display needs to be moved to the hallway, Dr. Myelin says that SSI's marketing director encouraged her to distribute the book during educational events. When Dr. Ganglion insists that she cannot exhibit the text in the meeting room, Dr. Myelin exclaims that she is no longer interested in presenting at that morning's session and begins to pack up her materials.
My Way or the Highway
Parochka: Dr. Ganglion has a diplomatic situation on his hands that needs to be handled delicately.
Overstreet: I agree. Balancing relationships withand meeting the needs of learners while simultaneously complying with all relevant guidelines can be challenging.
Should Dr. Ganglion cite relevant guidelines including the Standards for Commercial Support to bolster his position?
Parochka: Dr. Ganglion should explain that the SCS do not allow for intermingling promotional and educational activities, and tactfully add that these regulations are not his ideas, but rather those of the many accrediting agencies that govern providers. Fortunately, this scenario is not commonly encountered when working with one's healthcare-professional peers.
Overstreet: He also could tell Dr. Myelin that the various government and industry guidelines and codes that direct the work of SSI state that promotional content should not be distributed during educational interventions, and adhering to these guidelines will help protect the speaker as well as the supporter.
What happens if a compromise cannot be negotiated?
Parochka: Dr. Ganglion needs to scrub the educational session and offer a different topic without offering credit, if need be. Strategic thinking suggests that Dr. Ganglion should have “just-in-case” backup plans should presenters renege at the last minute because of family emergencies, weather issues, or unforeseen conflicts. Alternatively, he could step in and offer a pre-certified session designed for such occurrences.
How could this situation have been prevented?
Overstreet: A detailed faculty invitation letter and careful review of the speaker's financial disclosure form might have alerted Dr. Ganglion to the potential for this conflict arising.
Parochka: Although providers could develop CME faculty guidelines noting the need to separate education from promotion, they can't develop a policy for every possible situation. Providers need to be quick on their feet and prepare for the unexpected!
Karen Overstreet, EdD, RPh, FACME, 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.
Your Views Welcome
To share your comments on this case, or if you have an “ethical hypothetical” you'd like reviewed, send an e-mail to Editor Sue Pelletier at firstname.lastname@example.org.