As a healthcare professional, it’s almost impossible to keep abreast of the ever-changing rules, regulations, and guidelines that relate to industry, professional medical associations, physicians, medical education, and issues of conflict of interest. The same is true for professional medical associations, such as the ACR.
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Explore This IssueOctober 2010
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In the last 12 months, the number of proposals to dramatically reduce or eliminate industry support for the activities of professional medical associations has increased. In response to an article published in JAMA1 suggesting that professional societies strive to end their use of financial support from industry, the ACR released a joint statement with five other like-minded associations, stating that, “Medical professional societies can and do have ethical, positive relationships with industry, as do others in federal and state government and the foundation community. Without continued external support from industry, our associations will be unable to provide the same level of outstanding education and cutting-edge science that has advanced the quality of patient care in this country. Moreover, as funding and reimbursements tighten, medical practices and practitioners are likely to fall further behind in offering the most current, evidence-based care to patients as the pace of scientific progress accelerates. We would welcome more public support, however unlikely, for advancing quality, evidence-based care, and translation of science into clinical care guidelines. But, in the absence of public funding, industry funding can be separated from product bias and be firewall protected to support continuing medical education as a means to improve quality of care and outcomes… .” (Read the full statement online at www.rheumatology.org/ref/industry/PMA_Joint_Letter.pdf.)
Since releasing this statement, we have continued to track the changes in environmental opinions and policies to ensure that we remain compliant. However, as a professional medical association, we believe it is our responsibility to provide a venue where primary data can be openly presented and discussed by those closest to the science. Accordingly, the road to the 2010 ACR/ARHP Annual Scientific Meeting has not been without debate.
Industry in CME
This spring, the Committee on Education further discussed the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medication Education’s (ACCME) March 2009 statement that precludes industry employees from serving as speakers at accredited CME activities. This stance was problematic to associations such as ours that consider this an important step in the translation of discovery to practice through the dissemination of the results of scientific research conducted by ACCME-defined commercial interests. In fact, just prior to ACCME’s issuance of guidance, we had taken a position on “ghost presenting” that now appeared to be going against the spirit of ACCME’s guidance. Our policy on abstract presentation states that those closest to the science (whether employees of commercial interests or not) are the best suited to deliver content to learners. The ACR took an observational approach and asserted that the mechanisms we already had in place to resolve potential conflicts of interest did result in achieving a balanced and bias-free CME activity.