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New ACCME Standards: Will They Benefit Doctors?, Lew Miller

In the U.S., the debate over separation of pharma- supported continuing medical education and promotion is rivaling the debate over separation of Church and State. The latest move was taken last month by the Accreditation Council for CME. Its new Standards for Commercial Support go into effect in 6 months. These echo recent dicta from the Office of Inspector General of Health & Human Services and from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Assn. in seeking a clear dividing line between education and promotion.

The latter two guidances apply specifically to drug companies; the ACCME rules to accredited providers of CME. Among the yet-to-be defined provisions are these: 1) Those who control educational content must disclose relevant financial relationships that create a conflict of interest; 2) The provider has to implement a mechanism to identify and resolve such conflicts; 3) Only faculty can be paid honoraria -- and not directly by the pharma company; 4) The pharma company can't distribute certified CME content to doctors. The bureaucracy governing CME and its commercial support is growing day by day -- and the question is: Who will benefit? The doctor? The patient? The bureaucrat?

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