In an unprecedented move, the American Academy of Physicians Assistants (AAPA) announced that they were no longer allowing AAPA CME credit for grants funded by Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) until they dropped the restriction for requiring faculty names in grant requests. In a letter to what appears to be the entire AAPA membership from Mike Saxton, AAPA's Chief Learning Officer and Senior Vice President and former CME director for Pfizer, Mike outlines that by requiring faculty names in CME grant submissions, BI is out of compliance with the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) and cannot be accredited for CME.
The core issue is independence from commercial influence. Faculty can be used as a proxy for content that clearly undermines independence. The Office of Inspector General has expressed concern to industry over this practice in the past, and as the accrediting body for physician assistant CME, we see this as out of compliance with the ACCME Standards for Commercial Support to which we adhere.
Effective January 1, 2014, AAPA will not accredit CME sessions that have received grant support from BI as long as this question remains a part of the grant application. AAPA states that their decision "only applies to single session(s) supported by BI and does not affect other sessions" and that "[a]nswering the question is out of compliance, and we have no mechanism to ensure it was not answered when we review." APPA stated that they "engaged in multiple levels of communication with BI" about the issue, but BI has no plans to remove the "offending question." If this non-compliant question is removed, AAPA will review the sessions again. In conclusion to his letter to the APPA member organizations, Mike stated: "No matter how it is rationalized, in today's environment, perception is reality and neither of our organizations can defend this practice that can easily be characterized as a proxy for content control."
Applications for Constituent Organization (CO) CME approval received prior to Jan. 1, 2014 will be considered under the old approval process.
Update 11/22/13 7:38am Eastern:
According to commenters, BI has taken off the faculty question from their grants system. Will the AAPA withdraw their accreditation exclusion of BI supported CME?
Update 11/22/13 11:38am Eastern:
Today ACCME added the following Q&A on the issue of commercial supporters requiring the faculty names in grant requests
Question: Can providers be required by potential commercial supporters to share the list of expected authors or speakers with commercial supporters, during the process of applying for an educational grant?
Answer: No. The ACCME cannot control what a commercial interest asks of an accredited provider but there is no CME reason for the provider to share the names of speakers/authors with commercial supporters. An accredited provider that submits to the requirement of a commercial supporter to supply the names of speakers and authors could be participating in a process whereby the commercial supporter is controlling the selection of speakers and authors in accredited CME. The provider may be found in noncompliance with the ACCME Standards for Commercial SupportSM: Standards to Ensure Independence in CME Activities.