The Case

Treat U Right LLC, is a small nonaccredited medical education and communication company that was founded in 1990 by Roger Slickman, a veteran of Starship Pharmaceuticals U.S. He worked in marketing, where he partnered with a number of providers (medical schools, specialty societies, and MECCs) on educational activities. He feels very knowledgeable about all the rules and regulations from both sponsor and provider perspectives, but he has never considered having the company become an accredited provider.

During the last year, Treat U Right has received $550,000 in educational grants — the majority of its yearly funding — from Starship Pharmaceuticals U.S. In order to diffuse the perception of cronyism, Slickman's company has worked with seven different accredited providers to certify the activities.

Stop the Symbiosis

Overstreet: Are we in a time warp? This sounds like the way things were done many years ago, before the flurry of new guidelines and scrutiny of industry-funded CME.

Parochka: Some commercial interests and providers have not caught up with the 21st-century regulations.

Is Treat U Right an agent of the commercial supporter?

Overstreet: It appears that the MECC in this case couldn't exist without its primary grantor.

Parochka: Mr. Slickman's past relationships with this commercial interest are too close for comfort, and it appears as if he is serving as the supporter's agent, despite his relationships with multiple accredited providers for joint sponsorship collaborations.

Overstreet: If providers and their partners were to make their funding transparent, as commercial supporters are starting to do, all stakeholders would be better able to judge such relationships.

How can accredited providers and educational entities identify appropriate partners?

Overstreet: All stakeholders need to have mechanisms to select the most appropriate partners. Providers could ask about the organization's involvement with relevant associations (e.g., the Alliance for CME, the North American Association of Medical Education and Communication Cos.), the educational and scientific qualifications of the staff, etc. Providers should also understand collaborators' relationships with commercial supporters.

Parochka: NAAMECC and the Pharmaceutical Alliance for CME developed a document that provides a backdrop for posing questions. [“Choosing Educational Partners: Keys to Successful CME Collaboration” is available at www.naamecc.org.]

Should supporters accept grant requests from and provide CME funds directly to nonaccredited entities?

Overstreet: It would be inappropriate for grant requests to be submitted — and ultimately funded — without all educational partners first being identified.

Parochka: I have no problem with a joint sponsor drafting the grant request and accepting the funds, provided that it is acting on the directive of the accredited organization. But I have big problems if the joint sponsor is directly negotiating the grant request with the commercial supporter without the participation of the provider.

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. Reach her at JacquelineParochka@comcast.net.