In a development that surprised many CME professionals, the Accreditation Council for CME issued an FAQ document prohibiting providers from asking commercial supporters to suggest topics or speakers for educational activities, or to review content for accuracy. The document, released October 12, less than a week before the 18th Annual Conference of the National Task Force of CME Provider/Industry Collaboration, provoked heated discussion during sessions and breaks at the meeting.

While the Standards for Commercial Support make it clear that providers are not required to act on commercial-supporter suggestions regarding educational content, providers sometimes ask grantors to review an activity for medical accuracy. Now, the ACCME has made it clear that such interaction is verboten. The ACCME's goal is to protect CME's independence, but some CME professionals think that the prohibition could jeopardize patient safety.

During one session, speakers and attendees analyzed a case example involving content review in light of the new ACCME document. What if a commercial supporter has new, unpublished information regarding product safety or efficacy? If the provider is not allowed access to that information, the end result could be that patients might be harmed, said one conference attendee.

In an interview after the conference, Murray Kopelow, MD, ACCME chief executive, responded to these concerns. “Content validity in CME is critically important,” he says. “However, it is not industry’s responsibility to ensure the content validity of CME. Yes, it is up to the providers to ensure that content is valid--perhaps through their review by independent teachers or authors or other content experts. It is absolutely essential that this validation not be performed by a commercial interest. If CME providers do not have access to content expertise they must not turn to commercial supporters. They must seek that expertise from healthcare professionals who are content experts. It is up to the speakers and authors of the CME [activities] to decide what data and information is included in CME. It is up to industry to put the data in the public domain to make it available to teachers and authors. It is not part of the commercial supporters’ role to collaborate on the content of CME.”

What are your views? Send your comments to Tamar Hosansky.

For more on this topic, watch for the December issue of Medical Meetings.