What is IME? The values and the rules for the pharmaceutical industry

What is IME? The values and the rules for the pharmaceutical industry

IME stands for independent medical education—but what exactly is IME, what are the rules that surround it, and why is it a valuable addition to your medical education strategy? This article will take you through the answers to these questions. If you have any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

What is IME?

IME is education that is produced without any involvement or influence from the pharmaceutical company providing funding for the project. Once the company has agreed to support the education, the project operates at an arm’s length, and the IME agency running the project along with the faculty have the final decisions. You may also have heard of CME; this stands for continued medical education. CME follows the same rules and best practice standards as IME, but an accredited version. CME projects undergo review from accrediting bodies and, provided they are approved, any healthcare professional who completes a CME-accredited education module can claim a credit towards their professional development. Many countries require healthcare professionals to gain a certain amount of CME credits across a time period to maintain their licences.

Why may financially supporting IME be a useful addition to your strategy?

  1. Some healthcare professionals are sceptical of company-driven education as they believe it will be biased towards the company’s product. By investing in IME on top of your company-driven education projects, you will be able to reach a wider audience. In fact, healthcare professionals prefer IME/CME to other sources of information, including journal articles and publications. (1,2)
  2. In IME, we are allowed to discuss the impact of clinical trial data on the future of clinical practice. This ensures that, when a new therapy is launched, healthcare professionals have the knowledge needed to swiftly integrate this into their practice. In company-driven education, this type of discussion needs to wait until after launch.
  3. One of the rules of IME (described further below) is the prohibition of company review of the content via Veeva or equivalent. This means IME is a lot less work for your internal team. If you are stretched resource wise but have leftover budget, IME could be a great solution for you.
  4. By supporting IME initiatives, you are raising your profile among healthcare professionals as a company committed to the development of knowledge in the field, positive clinical practice change in the field and, ultimately, improving patient care.
  5. At SES, we will provide you with insights in return for your support. This includes robust needs assessments highlighting the challenges faced by our target healthcare professional audience and outcomes, to show how the education you have supported has helped to solve these challenges. This provides you with valuable insights you can use to develop your medical and commercial strategies further and, importantly, prove the value of your investment in IME to key stakeholders in your team.

What are the rules of IME?

  1. All content for IME projects should be developed at arm’s length, with no involvement or review by the financial supporter. Veeva reviews or equivalent are not allowed for IME projects.
  2. IME projects should be faculty led, with the faculty and education company working together to direct the content. The supporter should not have any influence on faculty selection.
  3. IME projects should be non-commercial. This means they should not mention any brand names, incorporate any of the supporter’s strategic messaging, or have any company branding. At SES, we have a strict firewall in place that prevents communication between teams working on commercial and independent projects, and there is no crossover of team members. This ensures our teams have no commercial knowledge of supporters’ strategies when working on IME projects and do not insert any bias into content.
  4. This brings us on to the fourth rule: IME projects should be fair and balanced and not represent any bias towards one company’s product over another. All relevant therapeutics must be discussed alongside one another, and all information must be supported by clear scientific evidence. This allows healthcare professionals to make informed and independent clinical care decisions. It may be that one product does appear favourable over the others, but as long as the rule of fair and balanced representation in accordance with the evidence base has been followed, then this is allowed. At SES, we have an experienced team who have been running IME projects for over 10 years.

There are multiple ways you can partner with us and support our hubs and patient programs: ​

  • Become a supporter of our hub standard offerings
  • Support our hub ​bolt-on projects
  • Send us your proposal request and let us share our bespoke ideas

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if, having read this article, you would like to hear more about IME.


1. Policy and medicine. Global Education Group survey: 98% credit CME as helpful in improving patient care. http://www.policymed.com/2013/04/global-education-group-survey-98-credit-cme-as-helpful-in-improving-patient-care.html. Published May 6, 2018. Accessed Feb 10 , 2022.

2. EPG Health Media. Continuing medical education (CME): the behaviour, demands and views of healthcare professionals (HCPs) in Europe. https://www.epghealthmedia.com/asset/6E422815-2D8C-473C-A9B86AB04E8C5E3D/. Published Nov 2012. Accessed Feb 10, 2022).