CONTINUING MEDICAL EDUCATION
balanced view of therapeutic options and encourages the use of generic
names of therapies, rather than promoting the proprietary names.
4. Problems with ACCME Standards for Commercial Support
The availability of industry funding affects the types of CME programs
being offered. If alignment with industry interests determines CME
content, areas that lack industry support, some of which may be better for
patient health outcomes, generally receive less funding. A drug company
generally only funds CME programming that involves discussion of a drug
or class of drugs related to one of the company’s products, even though
such drugs may not yield better health outcomes as other potential topics of
CME programming. 97 Thus, reducing the amount of funding from
commercial interests would likely change the nature of CME content,
focused on better patient health outcomes than those having to do with
specific drugs and devices.
The ACCME guidelines are largely ineffective at limiting bias as result
of influential industry interests at the topic selection and funding
solicitation stages. Standard 3. 2 of the ACCME Standards for Commercial
Support provides that an industry funder cannot require a CME provider to
accept advice or services concerning teachers, authors, participants, or
content of programming as conditions of contributing funds or services. 98
However, this provision does not expressly prohibit drug and device
companies from offering advice, CME providers from soliciting
suggestions, or CME providers from voluntarily following suggestions from
commercial supporters. 99
Consider a hypothetical situation in which a Pharm Inc. manufactures the
drug Cholesteran, which is FDA approved for lowering cholesterol in
adults. A CME provider approaches Pharm Inc. for topic ideas for an
upcoming CME activity. Pharm Inc. suggests that treatments for childhood
obesity would be a novel and informative topic and informs the CME
provider that studies have proven that Cholesteran is effective in lowering
cholesterol levels in obese children with high cholesterol. The CME
provider thanks Pharm Inc. for its input and ultimately decides to plan a
CME activity about treatments for childhood obesity. Pharm Inc. does not
provide any input as to the content of the CME activities or presentations.
Following the decision to focus on childhood obesity treatments, the CME
97. See INST. OF MED., supra note 1, at 74.
98. See ACCME STANDARDS FOR COMMERCIAL SUPPORT, supra note 10, at 3.
99. See id.; Rodwin, supra note 10, at 811 (finding in the author’s interviews with CME
providers that these practices are in fact common).