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Executive Summary

INDUSTRY-FUNDED CME GUIDELINES ADVISE AGAINST FOCUS ON BRANDNAME products during educational meetings. The "Guidelines for Commercial Support of Continuing Medical Education" were adopted by the Accreditation Council for CME in mid-March and became council policy on May 1. They state: "Presentations must give a balance view of all therapeutic options. Use of generic names will contribute to this impartiality. If trade names are used, those of several companies should be used rather than that of a single sponsoring company." The Accreditation Council performs the accreditation process for the CME credits required of physicians, and also accredits and supervises the organizations conducting educational meetings. The council's sponsoring organizations include the American Medical Association and groups representing state licensure boards and professional certification societies. The new guidelines were developed by the Joint Task Force on Pharmaceutical Industry/CME Provider Collaboration, which was coordinated by AMA and had industry members ("The Pink Sheet" Sept. 24, p. 18). Interest in the guidelines intensified with Sen. Kennedy's (D-Mass.) investigation into industry promotional practices, including sponsorship of medical symposia. The guidelines also advise that the "ultimate decision regarding funding arrangements for CME activities must be the responsibility of the accredited sponsor. Funds from commercial sources should be in the form of an educational grant made payable to the accredited sponsor for the support of the programming." The guidance adds that "reasonable honoraria and reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses for faculty is customary and proper. Commercial support must be acknowledged in printed announcements and brochures; however, reference must not be made to specific products." The guidelines also direct that commercially supported social events should "not compete with nor take precedence over" educational sessions; it is "not permissible" to pay for personal travel expenses or honoraria for attendees; and all accredited sponsors should develop and adhere to a conflict of interest policy. Overall, the guidelines advise the accredited sponsors that they are "responsible for the content, quality and scientific integrity of all CME activities certified for credit." The guidelines are prefaced by a statement that CME sponsors "often receive financial and other support from non-accredited organizations. Such support can contribute to the quality of CME activities." The accredited sponsor, however, must ensure that the session is geared to enhancing the physician's patient care ability. AMA is implementing its own standards related to gifts from industry. Those guidelines state that gifts are permissible only if they are not "substantial" and do not have "strings attached" such as a tie to prescribing practices; that personal travel expenses to meetings should not be accepted; and that companies may make a contribution to help defray the general costs of an educational meeting providing the sponsorship is disclosed ("The Pink Sheet" Feb. 18, T&G-2).

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