Drawing Boundaries Between Exhibits & Commercial Support

I always struggle a bit with understanding the boundaries between exhibits and commercial support. Earlier this week, I posted the following scenario to my CME Facebook community:

A program director wants to do away with charging exhibit fees. Instead, he wants to implement a tiered commercial support structure where an exhibit table is included with higher levels of support (Platinum, Gold), but not with lower levels (Silver, Bronze). Is that OK to do?

I was delighted with the responses I got – which were informative and educational – so I’m posting them here so that more in the CME community can learn from them.

My friend Pam Beaton was one of the first to respond (answer: “Nope. Not in the least. No.” Point made.) and ended up writing her own post about it over on her excellent CME/CE Rumors blog.

Here are a few of the other responses:

 “Any event or product that contains advertising or promotional opportunities must not be part of the educational CME activity and must not be paid for by commercial support.” [from ACCME FAQ] I interpret that last part as the incentive of receiving exhibit space for free as = to be paid for by commercial support.

Even though it’s “free”, they can only get it as a supporter.

Linking exhibit and CME support is never clean. This is going back to practices of 5/6 years ago. BTW I also LOATHE tiered levels of support – that language belongs in sponsorship. I think the MSS-Industry group may have given guidance on that. See recommendations on MSS page on ACEHP website.

Also thinking of the revenue impact – wouldn’t you have more commercial entities interested in exhibit than providing grant support? Could have negative impact financially. I doubt the chance of a free exhibit would encourage more educational grants. These decisions are (should) be made separately within the commercial interest. Even processing that internally would be problematic.

I think by lumping them together, it almost seems like commercial interests would feel forced into exhibiting in order to be recognized at a higher level.

There have been a few medical associations that required a commercial supporter to reserve exhibit space at their large annual meeting before they would allow that same CS to support a satellite symposium. As many of these associations began to realize that this was not in compliance with SCS, they changed their processes.

Side note: This is why I’m such a big advocate of social media. This is why I wish more in the CME community would be willing to engage or move beyond merely lurking on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. I asked a question, had my first response within a minute, and 24 responses within two hours. Question –> rapid responses from multiple sources –> answer –> available to everyone. Beautiful.


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