Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) Chief Executive Murray Kopelow, MD, testified yesterday about the value and independence of the accredited CME system before a hearing held by the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging addressing conflicts of interest in continuing medical education (CME).
The committee explored concerns that funding from the pharmaceutical and medical device industries influences CME content. The ACCME, the national accrediting body for organizations that produce CME, regulates the funding process through its Standards for Commercial Support. The Standards prohibit any commercial influence, direct or indirect, over CME content, and ensure that CME activities are free from commercial bias and contribute to the quality and safety of healthcare.
Among other requirements, the Standards for Commercial Support mandate that all those involved in the development and presentation of CME activities must disclose relevant financial relationships with commercial interests and that anyone who refuses to disclose is disqualified from planning or teaching CME activities.
"The ACCME is the firewall between pharmaceutical industry marketing and independent continuing medical education," said Dr. Kopelow. He told the committee that CME is a critical and effective method for keeping doctors up to date on the latest medical advances and patient safety measures. "The goal of CME is to prevent the overuse, underuse and misuse of drugs," he said.
The ACCME has taken the following steps to strengthen its enforcement of the Standards for Commercial Support, in order to further safeguard CME's independence, and increase the system's transparency and accountability, Dr. Kopelow explained.
- The ACCME has developed a web-based portal for collecting and analyzing up-to-date, comprehensive data from CME providers across the country about their organizations, educational activities and program financing. This system is currently in the beta testing phase. Providers will upload data at least 30 days before educational activities, enabling the ACCME to create a process for sampling, surveillance and on-site monitoring of CME activities.
- The ACCME has accelerated its enforcement process. CME providers that are out of compliance with the Standards for Commercial Support must now submit an improvement plan within weeks of the findings and a demonstration of compliance within six or 12 months.
- Beginning in August 2009, the ACCME will publicly disclose on its Web site more information than it has before about CME providers, including their accreditation status and whether or not they accept commercial support.
After the hearing, Dr. Kopelow commented: "We are honored to have had the opportunity to present ACCME's accreditation system and processes for managing conflict of interest to the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging. We appreciate and share the committee's commitment to ensuring that the CME system is transparent and holds the public's trust. We are resolute in our commitment to carrying out our mission and enforcing our guidelines, thereby ensuring that CME is independent, free of commercial bias, and based on the highest levels of scientific evidence."
View a recording of the hearing.
The Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education is a not-for-profit organization based in Chicago that is responsible for accrediting U.S. institutions that offer continuing medical education through a voluntary, self-regulatory system. The ACCME also has a system for recognizing state medical societies as accreditors for local organizations offering CME.
The ACCME's mission is to identify, develop, and enforce standards for quality continuing medical education that improves health care for patients and their communities. There are currently approximately 2,500 accredited CME providers in the United States, whose educational activities draw more than 17 million healthcare practitioner participants annually.