On 8/24, ACCME announced 7 new policies that will go into effect as of January 1, 2008. Some of these were probably motivated by the Senate Finance Committee's critical report, but I assume that these don’t represent ACCME's definitive response (or at least I desperately hope not!). You can read the new policies yourself here, but unless you have been through an application for accreditation, as I have, don’t expect to understand what is being said. I’ve taken the liberty of translating each of their impenetrable pronouncements below, along with some commentary along the way.
New Policy # 1: If you make an agreement to provide a CME activity for a drug company, make sure to sign the document. Huh? This is new? It's a little bit alarming that this needs to be spelled out.
New Policy # 2: Drug companies are no longer allowed to tell you how to produce the CME they sponsor. Okay, I guess this is an admission that, in fact, companies had been able to directly influence CME content for all these years. I’m shocked, just shocked.
New Policy # 3: If you produce a web-based CME program, you can no longer conveniently leave off the fact that it is industry-sponsored from the first few web pages, as many providers were doing. This was a rather slimy way of roping doctors into an activity before they realized that it was just another promotional fluff piece. Thus, this policy enhances disclosure. Problem is, disclosure by itself does nothing to prevent promotional content. It only provides the illusion of objectivity.
New Policy # 4: Drug companies can’t put links to CME programs on their websites. This allows providers to more effectively hide the fact that you are about to watch a drug ad in the guise of education. Bad idea.
New Policy # 5: You know all that pesky disclosure stuff that we’ve always required you to do? Well, now we’re serious. You really have to do it. And this is a new policy…how???
New Policy # 6: We’ve changed our official definition of “commercial interest.” But don’t worry, after listening to the concerns of all the for-profit Medical Education Communication Companies, we’ve made certain that our new definition won’t disrupt business as usual. The crux here is that a “commercial interest” is not allowed to produce CME. As you can imagine, any redefinition of commercial interest generates high anxiety among MECCs. To the rest of the world, any company that makes all of their income by taking grants from drug companies and producing education that relates to their products, would be defined as a “commercial interest.” But somehow, ACCME has tweaked, massaged, nay, Shiatsued language as we know it to ensure that MECC’s remain blissfully non-commercial. This way, they can continue to make loads of money!
New Policy # 7: If you teach a CME activity, you can get two hours of CME credit for every hour of credit you teach. Excellent! That nets me 24 extra CME credits per year for writing The Carlat Psychiatry Report! Now this is policy I can get behind.
Bottom-line: The status quo finds ever more elaborate ways of maintaining the status quo.