Because the Senate Finance Committee concluded that the commercially-funded CME system is broken, the ACCME issued new policies intended to create thicker firewalls between industry and medical education. In a prior post, I "translated" these new policies into language mere mortals can understand. Now, in a new article in Medical Marketing and Media, we can see how commercial sponsors are already finding ways to avoid real changes.
The article profiles Bruce Bellande, Ph.D., president of CME Enterprise. Dr. Bellande bemoans that he and his parent organization, Deborah Wood Associates, have to demonstrate that they are meaningfully "separate." Deborah Wood Associates began as a medical education communication company, but has expanded into a 100-employee strong marketing consultation firm for the pharmaceutical industry. In order to show ACCME that CME Enterprise is now separate from Deborah Wood Associates, Bellande moved his staff into "new quarters" (read: Time for everyone to pick up your laptops and move down the hall!) and he had to create a trail of paperwork proving that a firewall exists. This included an organizational chart, some disclosure forms, and a few other documents that he likely had on his computer because ACCME has always required these for accreditation. He fired it off to Murray Kopelow, CEO of ACCME, and received this letter back, saying, essentially, that the firewall requirements were satisfied.
If you go right now to the Deborah Wood Associates website, you can see just how strict ACCME's new firewall policies are. This site is geared toward pharmaceutical companies wanting to sell their products, and their techniques couldn't be clearer: "See how we achieve optimal results through two dedicated groups: CME Enterprise and Avant Healthcare Marketing."
This rice paper firewall makes a mockery of ACCME's new policies. It's astonishing that Kopelow has signed off on CME Enterprise.