The CME Coalition: A New Voice in the CME Industry

Nov 14th, 2011 | By

For those who have not yet heard, there is a new lobbying group in Washington, the CME Coalition. Their mission is to polish the tarnished image of industry-supported CME, in the hopes, apparently, of fending off any future legislation that would further regulate industry funding of CME.

Now, if you read the organization’s mission statement, you would get a different impression, since it mentions nothing about commercial CME, diplomatically framing their goals in terms of educating policy makers about CME in general. But the steering committee belies their true agenda—there are currently six member organizations: five are Medical Education Communication Companies (MECCs) and one is a pharmaceutical company, Cephalon.

I’m not saying they are trying to deceive anyone, this is just the way Washington works—you officially frame your special interest group in impartial and balanced terms, and then once you are in the halls of Congress, you push your agenda like a tiger with teeth bared. That’s what lobbyists are paid to do, and the coalition has hired two high powered lobbyists already—including Andrew Rosenberg, a former personal staff member of Senator Edward Kennedy and former head of health policy practice at Ogilvy, which describes itself as “arguably the largest direct marketing and interactive marketing network in the world.”

The CME Coalition isn’t fooling around.

Today, Thomas Sullivan, on his blog Policy and Medicine, announced that the CME Coalition has adopted a new “CME Code of Conduct”–a 10 commandments of ethical CME. Reading through them, I found nothing objectionable and much to agree with. Commandments 1 and 2 particularly warm the cockles of my heart:

    1. Decisions concerning CME activity design and content, and decisions related to the support of CME, will always be made in the best interests of improving patient care and addressing public health needs.
    2. CME content will always be evidence-based and free of inappropriate influence.

Of course, the devil is in the details. What percentage of industry-supported CME actually turns out to be “free of inappropriate influence”? I assume the CME Coalition would admit that there are some bad apples in their industry, but would argue that this is true of any industry and we don’t need new regulations, just better enforcement of existing regulations. My point of view is somewhat different. I believe, like the AMA and the Institute of Medicine, that industry support of CME should be discouraged, though not necessarily forbidden. If there are truly types of medical education that are so expensive that they require industry support, then so be it. Hopefully the CME Coalition will be able to work with policymakers in deciding which portion of medical education actually needs industry funding to survive. My sense is that we’re talking a tiny part of the CME pie.

At any rate, I’m happy to welcome the CME Coalition to the wild and wooly world of CME politics. Let the games begin!

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