At a breakout session on the granting process, held at the National Task Force on CME Provider/Industry Collaboration conference in Baltimore in October, three pharmaceutical company representatives provided insight on their companies' grants processes:

  • Is it becoming common practice to prequalify providers before approving proposals? Presenters said that some companies require providers to fill out forms detailing information about their accreditation status, the percentage of income derived from pharma, and whether firewalls between education and promotion are in place, just to determine if it makes sense for the company to pursue working with that organization.

  • Expect to see pharma monitoring some of the CME activities they support. If someone from the company shows up at your activity, don't be surprised if it's a sales rep, the presenters said. They stressed that reps in monitoring roles know not to participate in any way; they would just be there to observe and answer questions the company might have after the activity.

  • While the companies represented tend to average 30 days or so to turn around a grant proposal, send it in as early as you can, they said. Complex proposals can be held up if they have to be run through the legal department, and any changes in the letter of agreement will, at best, delay approval, and could result in its being rejected. They also stressed the importance of knowing where in the life cycle a company's products are, because if the product is going off patent, that will affect the amount of commercial support available in that area.

  • Don't expect to ever learn why your proposal was rejected. “I know it's frustrating for you, and for us, but legal tells us we just can't do it,” explained one panelist. On the pharma side, there's also frustration about providers' financial reconciliation efforts — sometimes providers send the funding company boxes of receipts. If the company sends you a form or budget schedule sheet, just fill that out and hold onto the receipts, panelists suggested.