Roughly 100 national and state medical societies are backing a bill that would exempt drug and device makers from having to report payments made to doctors for participating in continuing medical education or receiving textbooks, journals and educational materials related to CME.
The American Medical Association, many of the major specialty groups and nearly every state's medical association have expressed support for the bill, which contradicts a final rule issued by CMS in late 2014 that lifted a previous exemption. The organizations expressed their support in a letter to Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who is sponsoring the bill and is also a physician.
The CMS rule has “chilled the dissemination” of education materials, the organizations say, and the bill is needed to avert a similar impact on access to CME event. Currently, underwriting CME for a doctor is exempt as long as the grants meet established criteria, including that the recipient doctors, not the manufacturers, have control over event content and who receives subsidies.
“This legislation would ensure that efforts to promote transparency do not undermine efforts to provide the most up-to-date independent medical knowledge, which improves the quality of care patients receive,” the letter reads.
The organizations say the CMS was mistaken when it concluded that medical textbooks, journal reprints and article abstracts aren't directly beneficial to patients. “This conclusion is inconsistent with the reality of clinical practice where patients benefit directly from improved physician medical knowledge and is not supported by the statutory language on its face or congressional intent,” they write.
The groups also write that they're concerned a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine by Deputy CMS Administrator Dr. Shantanu Agrawal and former CMS official Douglas Brown created further confusion in the industry. Agrawal and Brown wrote that “significant policy change will occur in 2017, when payments related to all accredited CME activities must be reported.”
The AMA could not immediately be reached for comment and a CMS spokesman said the organization doesn't comment on pending legislation. The agency has previously said that it eliminated the exemption to provide a more consistent reporting requirement and provide more consistent data to consumers.