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Building new capabilities into Medical Affairs

by PeakData

Over the past few years, physicians and other KOLs have been increasingly mindful of the time they spend with pharma sales representatives. Many of them have been reducing this time investment in favour of engaging with more scientifically knowledgeable MSL’s (Medical Science Liaisons) that can double as educators and help them stay abreast of new therapeutic products and developments. This shift in attitudes has thrust medical affairs teams into the spotlight and is transforming them into one of the pharma industry´s most prized assets.

The rise to stardom of the MA function corresponds with an ever-growing attention being paid by HCPs and payors to patient outcomes and other aspects of value-based healthcare that MA professionals are uniquely qualified to address. At the same time, they are highly attuned to the constantly evolving regulatory environment and its implications, especially as concerns transparency and compliance. This understanding of the regulatory landscape, combined with their deep product knowledge and sensitivity to the demands of value-based pricing and contracting, empower them to have meaningful exchanges with HCP’s in ways no other business function can. Yet, in many pharma companies this powerhouse of ingenuity is held back, and medical science liaison (MSL) staff are still regarded as mere product advisers.

Indeed, research conducted by Bain´s Healthcare practice as far back as 2017 highlighted this organisational blindspot when it found that one of the main reasons 50% of new drug launches fail is that companies do not adapt fast enough to new information channels used by physicians. The report foresaw three upgraded roles for MA teams that address this and other challenges: leading the communication of scientific evidence, feeding stakeholder insights into all stages of the R&D process and not just during post-launch assessment, and overseeing initiatives to produce outcomes research and real-world evidence. 

The rationale for concentrating this triple leadership role into the hands of MA teams is that they can authoritatively explain how a new product or indication fits into clinical practice at the same time as give evidence on how it impacts patient outcomes – the latter being the holy grail of any biopharmaceutical offering. With patients themselves having become important stakeholders in healthcare, conveying patient-reported outcomes or unmet medical need to physicians in the language of real-world evidence both helps advance the practice of medicine and builds trust in the industry as a good-faith actor. And with more than four-fifths of physicians both in Europe and in the U.S. citing RWE as their key criterion for prescribing drugs, according to the Bain findings, it is clear why professionals versed in outcomes research are the right messenger. 

Further, as clinicians begin using new treatments and sharing their observed impact on patients, MSLs are uniquely positioned to bring those insights back to the lab to drive improvements to next-generation drug development. Thus, they can effectively become the glue that binds together the expertise of physicians, the needs of patients, and the drive for innovation in the industry. 

But while recognizing the vast potential of MA teams is long overdue, laying all these responsibilities on their shoulders without additional support would be unrealistic. The creation of value for pharma companies, KOLs, and patients they can realise requires the untapping of deep, sometimes simultaneous, insights from all healthcare stakeholders and painting them together into a coherent knowledge map. Finding these insights in turn depends on the mining and exploration of data spread across a multitude of official and unofficial web sources and social media platforms. It is a Herculean task that, to be completed efficiently, exceeds the capacity of the human brain if it tries to “go it alone.” 

That´s why we created Healthscape, an AI-powered data mining and analytics platform designed to lend a virtual hand to your MA team and be its partner in navigating the stormy waters of data. It can uncover and transform into practical information all types of structured and unstructured data, including those related to RWE, KOL insights, social listening, and even business intelligence. So send us an email or give us a call and let us show you how Healthscape can equip your company with all it needs to keep an edge on the competition.

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