When a pharma company owns a CME entity

Sorry to have been so quiet this week! I had every intention of writing about everything that was happening at the Annual Conference of the National Task Force on CME

provider/Industry Collaboration in Baltimore this week, but couldn't get to my laptop any time other than when I should have been sleeping.

Anyway, a reader today wrote me about a short talk Lewis Morris Esq., chief counsel for the

OIG, gave at the meeting. In his discussion of the recent Serono settlement, he tossed off the fact that Serono has a CME organization called Serono Symposia. You should have heard the gasps from the audience. I mean, talk about a conflict of interest. I know this used to be a fairly widespread practice back in the day, but I was told a couple of years ago that pharma companies had pretty much shut these down by now. But, I guess, not Serono.

A quick skip through Serono Symposia shows that it is accredited by several agencies, including the ACCME, and also that most of its educational programs are supported solely by Serono or one of its co-marketing partners. One example, from a reproductive health activity:

    This program is supported by an unrestricted educational grant from Serono, Inc. In addition, Serono Symposia International personnel are employees of Serono, Inc. and Serono Symposia, International, Inc. also receives other in-kind support from Serono, Inc. in the form of space and administrative services.

Yes, fertility is one of Serono's clinical categories, and though the site says no promotional activities are permitted and any discussions of investigational uses are solely the responsibility of the presenter, the company also has a speakers bureau (and on that site, the company offers operational support for speakers presenting at its own programs).

What on earth is going on with this? I mean, independent CME providers are freaking out about protecting their independence and providing bias-free education, while pharma is supporting and providing its own educational arm, complete with speakers from its own bureau? And this in a company that just agreed to a huge settlement for improperly promoting one of its drugs?

Medical education companies got blasted a few times at the meeting for being accredited while getting most of their revenues from industry—but this is OK? Someone, help me understand this one. I don't get it.

P.S. Much, much more to come about the Task Force meeting as soon as a get a chance to get caught up. It was a good one!

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