Throwing the Baby Out with the Bath Water: ACCME Bans Industry Scientists from CME

Industry Insights from Paul Meade, M. Sc, MPH

A recent decision by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to not allow scientists employed by pharmaceutical, diagnostics, and devices companies to give educational presentations to physicians at medical meetings has “stirred up a bee’s nest.” In other words, if you graduated from an accredited university, conducted sound research within academia for several years, then joined a pharmaceutical company to carry on your research and were invited to a scientific congress to present your research findings to physicians, you are now being banned to do so because your work might be tainted and biased by your employer. Instead of addressing concerns of biased reporting or misrepresentation of the facts, the ACCME has decided to “throw the baby out with the bath water.”

I have known brilliant scientists who have spent their lifetimes conducting impeccable research within the halls of academia, only to be asked to come into the private sector to complete their research. Is the ACCME now saying those dedicated individuals have “sold their souls to the devil” and suddenly lost all integrity and objectivity? Have there never been researchers within academia that have falsified their data for personal gain and been exposed to the public? Should we ban all researchers in academic centers from presenting their research to physicians at continuing medical events? Has anyone working on a government grant ever skewed results of his work? Should we ban all scientists working on government grants from presenting their findings to physicians at medical conferences? If so, who would be left?

Telling dedicated and honest scientists employed in the private sector that you can no longer present your work to physicians at accredited medical education meetings is tantamount to calling them dishonest and lacking integrity. If you don’t like the television program, you don’t throw the television away, you change the channel. If there is an issue of integrity and motivation with any scientist that presents to physicians at a continuing education meeting, regardless of where he conducts research, then find a better way to vet these researchers than using wholesale discrimination against a particular sector. This is truly a social injustice that delivers a severe blow to dedicated researchers within the private sector. The ethical and honest way to deal with the issue is to find a workable solution that chastises the offenders without discriminating against an entire sector. It seems the very bias the ACCME is trying to eliminate is impacting its own judgment in the matter. Are we back to a Salem witch hunt?

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