May 9th, 2011

Continuing Medical Ed And Fine-Print Disclosures


In an effort to “strengthen the firewall” between accredited continuing medical education and pharma promotion, the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education is proposing a policy change that would prohibit corporate logos or mention of specific corporate divisions from appearing in commercial support disclosure statements.

Why consider such a change? Right now, industry logos may occupy a prominent spot on a web page that offers a course and is sponsored by a drugmaker. For instance, take a look at an online course at Medscape called Diagnosis and Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder, which is paid for by Eli Lilly. Some may consider such displays as being too overtly commercial. And so the revised policy would, presumably, minimize such impressions. The ACCME is seeking comment now (see this).

Here is the proposal: “The provider’s acknowledgment of commercial support as required by SCS 6.3 and 6.4 under Standard 6 of the ACCME Standards for Commercial Support must only state the name of the company supplying the commercial support, in text format only. Disclosure cannot contain corporate logos and cannot mention or describe any other units within the commercial interest’s corporate structure” (see this).

Ironically, the proposal may make it harder for doctors to know the extent of industry promotion. As psychiatrist and blogger Danny Carlat points out here, the proposed shift could “undermine” existing standards. In his view, the proposal would actually decrease disclosure, because commercial support disclosures would “get buried in the fine print.” After all, a very noticeable logo and disclosure would make it difficult for docs to ignore the sponsor and, perhaps, any possibility of bias.

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