Q. Our annual perinatal conference is always generously sponsored by a large formula manufacturer. They pay all the speakers directly. They provide attractive conference bags with their logo, and their excellent print materials are part of the handout packet. They also display product information in the main classroom. Is this appropriate?
A. No this is not appropriate, and you will need to review the guidelines carefully. You must have a written agreement with each entity providing commercial support, signed by both parties, that follows the ANCC/Midwest MSD guidelines. The provider or joint provider, not the commercial entity, must pay speakers or authors from an unrestricted educational grant. You must take care to keep educational content separate from product advertising; items with company ads or logos cannot be handed out where you register participants and hand out the educational packet, but rather at a separate table. Likewise, commercial advertising or logos can be present in an exhibit room, but not in the room where presentations occur. The presence of commercial support must be disclosed to participants in print or written form prior to the start of the activity.
Q. Our Oncology Nursing Society chapter often invites expert nurses who are on the speakers’ panel of drug manufacturers. What should we do to maintain compliance with ANCC/Midwest MSD criteria for disclosure and commercial support?
A. If the speaker’s content includes clinical content that has the potential to be a conflict of interest, the speaker must complete an AP Financial Relationship Reporting Form Part 1 and disclose all financial relationships. The Nurse Planner must then use the AP Financial Relationship Reporting Form Part 2 to evaluate the relationship(s) listed and document the mitigation strategy used, if appropriate. It is the responsibility of the NP to validate the nature of the financial relationship, as employees of ineligible companies/organizations are not allowed to participate. The provider must inform learners of the relationship in print prior to the activity. Slides and handouts must be free from company logos and advertising. According to criteria, presentations must give a balanced view of therapeutic options, and use of generic names of drugs is preferred; if trade names are used, trade names from several companies should be used. Communication with the presenter about these guidelines is key.
Q. What is an ineligible company/organization (formerly known as a commercial interest organization/company)?
A. The ANCC defines an ineligible company/organization as those whose primary business is producing, marketing, selling, re-selling, or distributing healthcare products used by or on patients.
Ineligible companies/organizations are not eligible to seek approval/accreditation for their educational activities.
Types of ineligible companies/organizations – examples given are not all inclusive:
- Pharmaceutical companies and distributors (e.g., Pfizer, Novartis, Johnson & Johnson)
- Device manufacturers or distributors (e.g., Medtronic, Cardinal Health, Becton Dickinson)
- Diagnostic labs that sell proprietary products (e.g., Lazar Scientific, CSA Labs)
- Compounding pharmacies that manufacture proprietary compounds (e.g., Kubat Healthcare, J Kohll RX Compounding)
- Advertising, marketing, or communication firms whose clients are ineligible companies (e.g., GoodApple, maricich health, Mind+Matter)
- Bio-medical startups that have begun a governmental regulatory approval process (e.g., Cerevel Therapeutics, ABLE Human Motion, Bionaut Labs)
- Growers, distributors, manufacturers or sellers of medical foods and dietary supplements (e.g., SMP Nutra, NutraScience Labs, Green Leaf Growers)
- Manufacturers of health-related wearable products (e.g., Cherokee Scrubs, Crocs Shoes)
- Pharmacy benefit managers (e.g., CVS, Express Scripts, United Health’s Optum)
- Reagent manufacturers or sellers (e.g., Promega, GJ Chemical, Inorganics Ventures)
Q. Are exhibits considered commercial support?
A. No. Exhibits are considered “trade shows” and not part of the educational activity. Vendors are paying for the booth space/tables, etc. to promote their product or service and have nothing to do with the planning, implementation or evaluation of the educational activity. Many organizers have specific forms and accounting systems for these dollars. Monies received from vendors for exhibit space can be used by the organization as they see fit and are not required to be reported in the Individual Education Activity Post Activity Documentation. Providers must ensure that exhibits/vendors are physically located in another room separate from the educational activity.
Q. Is paying for food or beverages considered to be commercial support?
A. Yes, if paid for by an ineligible company/organization.
Q. Some ineligible companies/organizations when providing commercial support want to require that certain groups get free or discounted registration fees because they are clients. Is this acceptable?
Q. Must we limit the promotional activities of companies that are not considered ineligible companies/organizations (commercial entities)?
A. Yes. Promotional activities should never occur within educational activities – regardless of the nature of the company wishing to promote themselves or their product(s).
- Example #1: A speaker has written a book related to the topic that s/he is addressing in the presentation.
Acknowledgement of the speaker’s expertise in the area may be made but the speaker may NOT encourage the learners to buy the book ‘in order to learn more’ or for any reason. Additionally, if there is to be a ‘book signing’, it should NOT be mentioned before, during or subsequent to the educational activity and it should occur in an area OTHER THAN the education area.
- Example #2: A not-for-profit healthcare entity agrees to sponsor education. They wish to include ‘an invitation to practice’ at their hospital in the educational material provided to the learner.
While the not-for-profit healthcare entity does not meet the definition of “ineligible company/ organization”, the scenario in question mixes educational activity with promotional activity. This is not allowed. The sponsor can be acknowledged but that acknowledgement cannot result in a promotion of the sponsor. Learners should not feel “pressured” or marketed to by the sponsor of the program or should not receive promotional information because they participated in an educational event.
Q. We have some “give aways” to provide participants at our conference. Can we just hand them out?
A. “Give aways” are donated items such as cups, bags, sticky notes, etc., which are not related to the provision of the educational activity, so are not considered to be ‘in‐kind’ sponsorship or commercial support. Ineligible companies/organizations may provide giveaways for learners as long as there is physical separation between accessing the giveaway and learner engagement in the educational activity, i.e., they should be placed on separate tables for participants to access, not tables where registration or check-in takes place or tables within the learning environment. Educational materials (handouts, agenda, disclosure form, evaluation) may not be pre-packaged in items (folder, binder, bag) bearing logos/trademarks of an ineligible company/organization.