The CME and pharmaceutical industries received a reprieve when the U.S. Senate failed to take up the Physician Payments Sunshine Act in 2007. But it is likely to be up for a vote in 2008, cautions Thomas P. Sullivan, president, Rockpointe Corp., Columbia, Md.

The bill would require pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers to disclose payments they make to doctors directly, indirectly, or through a third party, including gifts, honoraria, travel, and CME. The information would be posted on a public Web site. The Senate Finance Committee report on CME gave the Senate a reason to include CME in the Sunshine Act, says Sullivan.

The legislation would have a major detrimental effect on CME, says Sullivan, who, along with members of the Coalition for Healthcare Communication, has been lobbying to have certified CME removed from the bill.

CME providers would have to give commercial supporters information such as participants’ names and addresses, which would violate CME's independence, Sullivan says. In addition to the paperwork burden that would place on providers, faculty would be less likely to participate in programs, he says, if they knew their names would be posted in a national database of physicians who have received money from pharmaceutical companies. Another negative repercussion would be that pharma companies would be less likely to award smaller grants, such as those to community and rural hospitals and local medical societies, because of the paperwork and risk involved in noncompliance, he adds.

The Sunshine Act is “a wake-up call for [the CME] industry,” says Sullivan. CME professionals should tell their Congressional representatives they want CME excluded from the bill, he recommends. “They need to start thinking like their lives are on the line."