ACCME Proposes to Ban Commercial Support for CME

July 3, 2008

On June 11, 2008, the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (“ACCME”) issued for comment a proposal “that the commercial support of continuing medical education end.”  The proposal is intended to provoke debate on whether unbiased CME is possible when funded by individual pharmaceutical or device companies.  The ACCME notice cautioned that comments on the proposal should discuss alternatives, “as nothing would be worse than the deconstruction of a system without the identification of alternatives.” 

As an alternative to a complete ban on commercial funding, the ACCME outlined a restrictive new paradigm under which commercial support would be permissible if all of the following conditions were met:

  • Needs assessments are performed by organizations that do not receive commercial support and are free from financial relationships with industry (e.g. government agencies);
  • The CME addresses a practice gap of a particular group of learners that is corroborated by bona fide performance measurements (e.g. National Quality Forum) of the learners’ own practice;
  • CME content comes from a continuing education curriculum specified by a bona fide organization (e.g. American Medical Association, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, American Board of Medical Specialties); and
  • The CME is verified as free of commercial bias.

The ACCME is requesting that members of the profession, public and CME community submit comments on the new proposal by August 11, 2008. 

This proposal responds to increasing scrutiny of commercially supported CME on the part of Congress and the medical community.  In April 2007, Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus and ranking member Charles Grassley publically criticized the ACCME for not doing enough to prevent industry influence over commercially supported CME.  The American Medical Association ("AMA") recently considered a report by its Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs ("CEJA") recommending that individual physicians, medical institutions, and professional organizations cease accepting industry funding to support professional education activities, with the exception of technical training when new diagnostic or therapeutic devices and techniques are introduced.  After hearing testimony largely opposing the CEJA recommendation at AMA’s annual House of Delegates Meeting on June 15, the AMA’s Reference Committee declined to adopt CEJA’s recommendation, concluding that broader discussion was needed before adopting an ethics policy on commercial support of CME. 

Concern over the appearance of bias in commercially supported CME led one drug company, Pfizer Inc., to announce today that it will discontinue all direct funding for CME provided by medical education and communication companies.  Pfizer will continue to fund CME provided by medical institutions, medical societies and associations.

By Noelle C. Sitthikul & Alan M. Kirschenbaum

Categories: Drug Development