It’s Official: Europe Bans Direct Industry Sponsorship of Physicians for CME

MedTech Europe, which represents the medical technology industry, yesterday adopted a code of ethical business practice that will phase out direct sponsorship by its member organizations of healthcare professionals attending conferences and other continuing medical education (CME) activities.

The code, which calls for the elimination of direct sponsorship by January 1, 2018, was approved in a vote by MedTech Europe’s members—the European Diagnostic Manufacturers’ Association (EDMA) and the European Medical Technology Industry Association (Eucomed)—at a meeting convened in Brussels, Belgium.

Although the document covers wide-ranging interactions between industry and healthcare professionals and organizations, the sticking point for leading cardiologists proved to be the call to end direct sponsorship.

The measure “may significantly impact the future of CME, create major restrictions for smaller meetings, and have a severe impact on larger conferences,” according to an editorial commentary published last week by Patrick Serruys, MD, PhD, of Imperial College London; William Wijns, MD, PhD, of Cardiovascular Center Aalst (Aalst, Belgium); and Stephan Windecker, MD, of Bern University Hospital (Bern, Switzerland). They predict that the new guidelines could reduce attendance at education events by as much as 30% to 50%.

As of 2018, following the 2-year transition period, the code states, “member companies shall no longer provide financial or in-kind support directly to individual healthcare professionals to cover costs of their attendance at third-party organized educational events with the exception of third-party organized procedure training meetings or pursuant to a consulting agreement with a healthcare professional speaker engaged by a member company to speak at a satellite symposium.”

Support for educational events will instead be made available through educational grants and other types of funding, with rules outlined in the code.

Commenting on the news, Gregg Stone, MD, of Columbia University Medical Center (New York, NY), observed, “Interventional cardiology progresses rapidly and attendance at national and international congresses reporting the latest data and demonstrating live case techniques is essential if practitioners are to provide state of the art care to his/her patients.

Indeed, he continued, ongoing learning has clearly contributed to the marked reduction in morbidity and mortality from cardiovascular disease over the last several decades.”

Industry, Stone argued, by supporting physician education, plays an important role in improving patient outcomes.

For those of us who have dedicated our lives to running high-quality, independent CME-accredited courses, we are concerned that these new rules will be counterproductive, and limit attendance at independent meetings, while paradoxically making it relatively easier to attend direct industry-sponsored events. Only time will tell if this initiative is a step backward or achieves its stated goals of greater transparency and fairness without slowing the remarkable progress we’ve collectively realized. In the meantime, we strongly encourage all physicians in Europe to continue to annually attend major physician-directed interventional meetings to ensure ongoing quality improvement and enhance patient care.” 


MedTech Europe. MedTech Europe code of ethical business practice. Published on: December 3, 2015. Accessed on: December 3, 2015.

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Todd Neale is the Associate News Editor for TCTMD and a Senior Medical Journalist. He got his start in journalism at …

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