A close look at a Diet Coke can reveals a number of differences between the AHA dress and the NHLBI dress. The AHA version is a little more Texas -- swingy, strappy -- while the NHLBI frock is a bit more like a dress for a paper doll. "And their dress is not on a hanger, ours is," explained an AHA spokesperson.
But the NHLBI spokesperson said, "we had the dress first."
Both Harrington and Nissen agreed that there have been abuses in both research and CME funding over the years, but as expected they mapped out distinct camps.
Harrington devoted most of his time to discussing ways in which industry funding -- both research and CME funding -- should be subject to oversight. And he said that current rules governing industry funding of CME are "good rules, but the problem is often with us and the way we enforce those rules."
Nissen disagreed and he offered examples of single-sponsor CME that he said were "continuing marketing education, not continuing medical education."
He singled out a CardioSource CME program funded by Merck as an example and said it was one of many such examples.
The program, "Optimizing Patient Outcomes in Acute Heart Failure Syndromes: Strategies to Preserve Cardiorenal Function," Nissen said, was simply a marketing strategy to drive up interest in a drug, rolofylline, that Merck was developing for decompensating heart failure. Merck eventually dropped the development program as clinical trial results did not support a benefit.
"That drug is gone, but the CME program is still out there on CardioSource," Nissen said.
During the discussion period, Dick Pasternak, vice president of cardiovascular clinical research at Merck Research Laboratories, said it was unfair for Nissen to criticise a CME program without showing any slides from the program. Pasternak maintained that the program offered solid education about heart failure treatment.
Nissen said he had reviewed the entire program and he found it to be "marketing, not education."
Dr. Jack Lewin, executive vice president of the ACC, said that while he was sensitive to the issues Nissen raised, he believed that societies like the ACC could successfully manage relations with industry and that such collaborations were essential.