The ACCME Issues a Call for Comment: Does Anyone Care?

Sigh.

OK, here we go…

In the latest version of The ACCME Report, the ACCME issued a Call for Comment on the disclosure of commercial support, specifically SCS 6 (you can read the actual Call for Comment here). I have read the Call for Comment; I listened to the audio from Dr. Kopelow; I read the transcript of the audio from Dr. Kopelow; I read Tom Sullivan’s opinion on his Policy and Medicine blog; I re-read the Standards for Commercial Support; I discussed the issue with my fellow CME colleagues. Based on all this, I have come to the following conclusion:

Who cares?

Let me repeat that in case you missed it.

Who. Cares.

This is a non-issue to me. Whether I print the logo of the supporter of my activity or I only print their name in text, it matters not a whit to me. Everyone I discussed this with felt pretty much the same way, which leaves me with the following questions:

1) Why is this issue being brought forward as a Call for Comment?
2) Who are the providers that are giving the ACCME this feedback?
3) How does this revision to Standard 6 jive with the recent emphasis on increased transparency? It’s harder to find the grantors of an activity when they are disclosed as text rather than logo (Take a look at the front matter from the RAPID clinician educator pocket guide. Kind of hard to find the disclosure of commercial supporters, isn’t it? Frankly, I semi-panicked when I first saw this because I thought we had forgotten them completely.) Sorry, it just is.

I suppose simply saying “Who cares?” is being overly flippant, but “issues” like this drive me crazy. Is eliminating the logos of commercial supporters from the front matter of a CME-certified activity really strengthening the firewall between accredited CME and promotion?

No. It’s window-dressing.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that it may actually damage this firewall, at least the perception of it. If you feel so strongly that not even the logos of the companies that support CME should be anywhere close to the actual activity, aren’t you reinforcing the perception that commercial support is “evil”? And if someone is being lead to believe that, isn’t the next step for them to think “then why do they allow commercial support at all?”

This is the kind of statement I would love to have seen come from the ACCME (it will never happen, but humor me here):

Several providers have raised concerns about the issue of grantor logos being listed in the Disclosure of Commercial Support on CME-certified materials. We have discussed this issue with the individual providers and addressed their concerns. The ACCME believes that the Standards of Commercial Support currently in place provide a strong firewall between accredited CME and promotion and no revisions are necessary. We are confident that our accredited providers are more than capable of upholding these standards and producing balanced, unbiased educational activities. Furthermore, if you believe that the mere presence of a company logo in the disclosure statement of a CME activity is enough to influence the prescribing habits of a physician, you live in a far more dark and cynical world than we care to be a part of.

OK, I added that last sentence just for fun, but you get my point. Instead of adding yet another layer of rules and regulations on CME providers, it would be great if the ACCME simply came out and said, “Nope, we’re not changing anything. We believe in the system we have in place and we believe in our providers.”

Hmmm…maybe I do care about this after all.

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