Seeing as I don't belong to any of the special interest groups at the National Task Force on CME Provider/Industry Collaboration conference, I chose to sit in on the specialty society session after all the keynotes of the morning on Tuesday. The session leader asked each of our tables to come up with relationships that we found caused conflict of interest, then we shared and voted on the ones that we ran into most often. Not surprisingly, faculty members who have relationships with industry, faculty who are on company speakers bureaus, those who have developed devices, speakers who are investigators on clinical trials, and speakers who also are consultants to industry all were at the top of the list.
Then we did the same thing with methods used to resolve COI. The top picks were peer review, evidence-based content, making sure no one member of the planning committee controls the content, and having them sign agreement letters that they will follow the rules. One participant even had hired a staff compliance/legal combination person to help deal with COI throughout the organization, which everyone seemed to think was a nifty trick if you could afford to do it. Several did an annual database of disclosures around the time of their annual meetings, then asked speakers to update their disclosure form if anything had changed when asked to participate later in the year. The databases were tied to the membership databases.
But how to deal with late-breaking data, when you don't have time to get all those disclosures in? One person said they have a process where speakers have to say if they think they might have a late-breaker, so they can prepare ahead of time.
Best simile of the day: One person said, "Isn't this like having to pack liquids and gels in baggies at the airport to catch one or two bad guys?" Everyone laughed, but agreed that it was an apt comparison. Another commented that the two biggest challenges are getting honest and complete disclosures, and "watching what happens once they get in that speaker-ready room and start moving slides around." The answer to the latter would be education: "We have to spend time and energy to educate speakers about the liability and legal issues behind disclosure and COI," said one person. "It's not that they don't want to comply. They just don't know."
And what about dealing with COI related to those asking questions from the floor? One person said that they are developing a second slide that says that anyone asking a question also needs to disclose. Interesting idea, isn't it?