July 30, 2012 – A report released last week by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) shows that the pharmaceutical industry’s funding of CME programs continued to decline in 2011. This trend is likely to continue if regulations to implement the “Sunshine” provisions of the Affordable Care Act proceed as proposed, and could
put an increasing number of patients at risk.
The 2011 ACCME Annual Report Data show that industry support for CME dropped by 11.4 percent, which equates to almost $94 million less spent on CME in 2011 than in 2010. This decline marks an ongoing shift away from industry as the primary supporters of CME activities. In 2007, industry funding represented 46 percent of total funding, but in 2011, industry funded only 32 percent of CME activities.
“The decline in commercial support for medical education demonstrates the folly of over-regulation. While the covered patient population continues to expand and the effective use of medicines is key to efficient and appropriate delivery of care, public policy makers should be developing rules and policies that encourage, not discourage, commercial support for doctor education,” said John Kamp, Executive Director of the Coalition for Healthcare Communication. “Transparency is a laudable goal, knee jerk journalism and regulatory over reaction have moved us in the wrong direction.”
Although total income from CME was down 1.1 percent in 2011, income from advertising/exhibits at CME events and “other income,” which included registration fees and funds that came from a provider organization, did help the balance sheet. For publisher/medical education companies, income from CME activities was up 2.4 percent in 2011.
Non-physician attendance in CME events increased by 1 percent, while physician attendance decreased by .05 percent. Overall, publishing/education companies drew the most physician participants, with medical schools and hospitals/health care delivery systems rounding out the top three, according to the report. ACCME notes that its data for 2011 excludes in-kind support for CME and includes state and regional CME statistics.
This downward trend in industry CME spending is unlikely to be reversed by additional burdens imposed by Sunshine provision proposed regulations, the specter of which already may be dissuading health care providers from participating in
CME. Further, if the proposed regulations – which call for CME providers to report the value of education provided for each certified CME program attendee and would mandate that industry value and report each company-sponsored education and research activity – are published as proposed, they could further suppress both CME funding and participation.
“Regardless, I hope the final rules from HHS on the Sunshine Act will be much more sensible than the draft proposals. The industry, including PhRMA, BIO, AAFP, AMA, the Coalition and others have given them a much more sensible road map to effective but more sensible regulation,” Kamp continued. “Meanwhile, let’s take this week’s decision by Massachusetts regulators to kill the ban on drug coupons as a step in the right direction, and applaud similar steps.”