In a move that caught many continuing medical education professionals by surprise, the Accreditation Council for CME released implementation guidelines for its new Standards for Commercial Support that many say are far too restrictive. The guidelines--issued just a week after the new Standards had been approved by the CME community--unleashed a firestorm at the American Medical Association’s conference on CME provider/industry collaboration, held at the end of September in Baltimore.

The controversy centers around how CME providers should handle speakers whose financial relationships with pharmaceutical companies create a conflict of interest. One strategy, said ACCME chief executive Murray Kopelow, MD, is for speakers to alter or sever their relationships with drug firms--a recommendation that drew "are you serious?!" laughter from attendees. Or CME providers can restrict the content of speakers’ presentations, Kopelow said. For instance, a doctor who is a paid researcher for a drug firm could discuss the research results--but not make any recommendations.

The ACCME’s solutions are unrealistic, contended many CME professionals at the conference. Since "the best and the brightest" physicians have relationships with the pharmaceutical industry, it would ultimately hurt patient care to limit their participation in CME programs, they said. Kopelow disagreed, saying that there are equally qualified physicians who do not have relationships with industry. He also emphasized that the new rules are necessary to ensure that CME is guided by the public interest.

For more coverage of the AMA conference and the new Standards for Commercial Support, watch for the December issue of Medical Meetings.

In addition, Capsules, the Medical Meetings blog, is covering ongoing reaction to the new Standards, including the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery's criticism of the new conflict of interest guidelines, a link to an editorial on disclosure and conflicts of interest, a link to an editorial on alternatives to pharma commercial support for CME, what some physicians are saying about the new Standards, and links to articles outlining the history of the new Standards’ evolution so far.