Author + information
- W. Douglas Weaver, MD, FACC, ACC President⁎
- ↵⁎Address correspondence to:
W. Douglas Weaver, MD, FACC, American College of Cardiology, 2400 N Street NW, Washington, DC 20037
One of my goals for this year dealt with the Annual Scientific Session and the i2 Summit. I wanted the program to consist of more “core” educational sessions targeted at increasing knowledge and procedural competency, as well as sessions to meet credentialing requirements and maintenance of certification education. I am pleased to say that we are going to deliver on this. The upcoming March 2009 meeting in Orlando will be one at which you will not only get the latest and greatest but you will also be able to satisfy many requirements needed for certification and credentialing. Stay tuned for more details in a follow-up article, but be sure to make your plans now to be there and register early for these venues as they are likely to fill quickly.
As you all know, the Annual Scientific Session is important to the College. It not only is our largest educational event, but it also provides considerable revenue to offset the expenses of other educational meetings and infrastructure, pay for some of the quality initiatives that we are building, and pay for other new initiatives. It is also important to understand that the Annual Scientific Session would not be possible in its current form if it were not for industry grants and fees from the Exposition. However, we live in a time when some ask if “firewalls” exist between funding sources and education programs and if they are strong enough.
I addressed conflict of interest in my convocation presentation and offered a simple definition of conflict as anything that falls between you and your ability to provide the best, most appropriate care for your patients. Such a simple definition, however, does not suffice in today's climate. In recent months, some have questioned professional society (including the American College of Cardiology [ACC]) and university/health care organization relationships with industry. The ACC has answered specific inquiries to that effect. In addition, as you can see on our Web site, www.acc.org, the College has been transparent about sources of funding and how the funds are used.
Let me assure you that we have very strong firewalls around industry support. Strong firewalls are important for both parties—the funding source and the recipient—and we have formal documents such as the ACCF Position Statement for Industry Relations and the Consensus Conference Report on Professionalism and Ethics to guide us.
As part of our firewall structure, the College has long-established policies that require strict segregation between the source of commercial support and the use of industry funding. The College adheres to internal and external policies that prohibit companies that provide support from exercising any influence or control over programmatic content, speaker/faculty selection, program format, planning, partnering arrangements, program evaluation methods, and related matters.
Most of the College's commercial support from pharmaceutical and medical device/equipment companies is used for a new or ongoing initiative. For example, the College may solicit support for an educational program on the management of patients with congenital heart disease. Commercial support, in cases such as this, is dedicated or directed to that special objective but with the contractual understanding by the supporter that they will have no influence on how the College uses the funds to support the objective. Unlike unrestricted educational or charitable grants, directed funds are restricted to the designated objective, but the College determines how to use them in accomplishing the objective.
The ACC staff members also follow strict policies designed to separate the interests of those responsible for managing our relationships with industry from those responsible for developing educational programming and other scientific or educational activities. These policies ensure that our relationships with drug and device companies will never influence the scientific or educational content the College produces. If necessary, the College will sanction violators of our policies, even when the violations are unintended.
The College's conflict of interest policies and approach to the handling of commercial support are also guided by several external guidelines. In particular, they are:
• The Internal Revenue Service regulations governing organizations classified as federally tax exempt under Sections 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code;
• Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) Standards for Commercial Support;
• Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed) Code of Ethics for Interactions With Health Care Professionals;
• American Medical Association Opinion 8.061—Gifts to Physician From Industry;
• Office of Inspector General (OIG)—Compliance Program Guidance for Pharmaceutical Manufacturers;
• Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA)—Code on Interaction With Healthcare Professionals.
The College does everything possible to ensure that our scientific and educational activities are protected from conflict of interest. Disclosure, transparency, and secure firewalls between commercial support and program content and implementation enable us to use such funding for education and other programs aimed at improving the quality of care to patients without sacrificing our integrity. Our goal is a simple one—to help both cardiovascular professionals and our patients through education and quality support tools to provide the best and most appropriate care possible.
- American College of Cardiology Foundation