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  • 17 Apr 2013 9:00 AM | Anonymous

    Industry Insights from Paul Meade, M.Sc, MPH


    Allison Murphy and I had the pleasure of participating in the MSL Society’s inaugural global conference and gala in Philadelphia earlier this month.  At Thought Leader Select, we always enjoy the opportunity to meet some of our great colleagues in medical affairs in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and device industries, but this event proved to be really special.


    Since joining our company last year, Allison has continued to make a real impact in the medical affairs community.  After serving much of the last decade in Eli Lilly’s medical affairs division in support of the company’s endocrinology portfolio, Allison has brought a wealth of medical affairs expertise to Thought Leader Select. This expertise has continued to evolve, even as a consultant, through her membership and advisory board participation with the MSL Society, a dynamic group that we are proud to support as a company.


    Dr. Samuel Dyer, the founder and head of the MSL Society, approached us a few months ago, asking for help with the burgeoning organization’s first global event.  As a veteran of the industry myself, I have participated in many events through the years, as a participant, speaker, and sponsor. I must admit that I was more than a little skeptical about another conference/event series emerging in a space with lots of competition, but we put our faith in the MSL Society’s non-profit mission to increase the viability of the MSL role in shaping industry collaborations with key opinion leaders in medicine.  Obviously, the Society’s mission aligns perfectly with that of Thought Leader Select, and we were eager to see if the new organization could find its feet in the education and networking space for industry professionals.


    To say that the organization pulled off its first big meeting of the minds in global affairs would be an understatement.  From the outset, the MSL Society pulled in a great team of sponsors.  We benefitted directly, in our own sponsorship role, from the team at Global Prairie, a conference sponsor that also chipped in with some stellar event management.  From a sponsorship standpoint, the Society lined up a diverse group representing the worlds of KOL strategy, medical communications, contract medical affairs, and contract clinical trial research.


    We all know that in any event, content is king, and this conference delivered in royal fashion.   The conference brought together a speaker roster encompassing the greatest diversity I’ve seen to date, in terms of expressing the different roles that MSLs play in not only pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, but also in diagnostics, medical devices, and CROs.  Furthermore, the conference featured the perspectives of leaders from companies of all shapes and sizes, from global giants like Bayer, AZ and BMS to small, innovative players like Corcept Therapeutics, represented by David Cram.


    Allison and I particularly enjoyed presentations from Mitch Trujillo and Stewart Rosen, of Bayer and Quintiles, respectively.  It’s always great to learn how others in the industry are applying the best people and resources to optimize interactions and collaborations with the thought leaders that drive bringing new treatments effectively into the marketplace.  Mitch Trujillo, who heads up global medical affairs excellence at Bayer, left us with a particularly salient thought—while we focus from our own company perspective on ensuring our clients work with the right KOLs at the right times for the right reasons, he pointed out an equal level of responsibility for industry, that companies must properly match the right MSLs with KOLs, based on the skills, experience, and interests of the MSLs themselves.


    Dr. Rosen gave us some great perspectives on the roles that MSLs play in the realm of CROs like Quintiles.  Since Quintiles is a global player, the company takes a market-by-market approach to matching MSLs with the highest-impact activities with thought leaders.  For example, here in the U.S., MSLs focus on collaborating with KOLs to optimize clinical trial recruitment and participation, while in Latin America, the MSL force takes on an expanded role with thought leaders.


    A recurring theme throughout the conference was key measurements for success of MSLs in the industry.  Regardless of whether you are a pharmaceutical, biotech, devices, diagnostics, or CRO company, it has historically been difficult in applying hard-ROI measures to MSL activities with KOLs.  In the absence of these hard measurements, many have opted to apply alternative measures, such as number of visits and presentations made to KOLs, as well as qualitative measurements of the potential impact of presentation content.


    The bottom line for the event’s content was that MSLs, in their ever-evolving, critical role in collaboration with medical thought leaders, must always strive to bring value to their key opinion leader panels.  As more and more KOLs themselves struggle with the demands of their research, teaching, and clinical work, access will never stop being an issue for MSLs.  With that in mind, MSLs must plan their engagements in the most effective manner possible—there’s never a “routine” visit, since the physicians pushing the advancement of the field simply don’t have time for that.  MSLs must always be the bearers of critical knowledge that assists the individual KOL in his or her work advancing new treatment standards.  What a critical role to play, indeed!


    We’d like to thank Dr. Dyer and the MSL Society, as well as the other sponsoring companies, the speakers, and the participants, for making this event one to remember.  The best measure of this type of event is the answer to this question—did this event leave you better-equipped for what you face in the field.  From our perspective at Thought Leader Select, the answer is an emphatic, “Yes!” We look forward to seeing everyone, as well as new faces, at the next meeting of the MSL Society in Paris this fall.

  • 05 Dec 2012 9:00 AM | Anonymous
    Dr. Samuel Dyer

    Historically, pharma companies have believed that their sales and marketing teams are of the most value to key opinion leaders (KOLs.) However, KOLs are increasingly reporting that they actually prefer to engage with, and place a much higher value on, the information they receive from Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs).

    This perception of the value of the MSL role has resulted in a paradigm shift in the industry’s approach to KOL engagement. MSLs typically have strong clinical and educational backgrounds within the medical field and thus KOLs not only place a higher value on the information they receive from them but also prefer to interact with them. KOLs respond to the level and depth of clinical exchange that physicians have with MSLs, who are primarily focused on scientific exchange with KOLs.


    Although the sales rep–physician relationship will continue to be vital to the success of pharmaceutical companies, and certainly should not be discounted or abandoned, physicians increasingly prefer to engage with MSLs because of their ability to have peer-to-peer scientific, non-promotional conversations.


    A number of recent studies have highlighted this shift and continued trend. An interesting example is a 2011 study from Thought Leader Select, a KOL strategy and research firm. The company conducted an industry-wide study of KOLs in Endocrinology focused on a broad range of topics, including the KOLs’ perceptions of the industry, as well as with whom they preferred to engage.


    In the study, 70 percent of veteran KOLs reported that they preferred and expected contact primarily with industry executives or an MSL. Strikingly, only three percent of this group reported that they would prefer to engage with someone from the sales or marketing teams. The data from the emerging KOLs resulted in similar conclusions. Although this group receives less direct attention from industry, the results show that nearly 60 percent of this group still prefers the MSL as their primary point of contact when interacting with pharma companies. The most revealing result from the survey of emerging KOLs was that none of them reported a preference for anyone from the sales and marketing team as their key point of contact.


    This study also asked KOLs to rank the value of the information they obtain from the medical community as well as from MSLs or sales and marketing teams. Overall, as one might expect, KOLs place the highest value on the peer-to-peer interactions they have with other KOLs. They also place a high value on the information they gain through medical journals, professional society meetings, and continuing medical education programs. When questioned on their perception of the value of the information they receive from pharma, again, the results support the findings of previous studies. When compared to sales and marketing teams, these physicians placed a 30 percent higher value on the information they received from an MSL.


    As a result of the increased value that MSLs provide to KOLs, the MSL role has seen explosive growth globally over the last several years and this is expected to continue. In a recent Medical Science Liaison Society survey, which included both MSLs and executive management, the Society asked over 600 participants from 43 countries if they felt their MSL teams would expand over the next one to two years, and, if so, by how much. A significant percentage of participants reported that they expected their respective MSL teams to grow by up to 20 percent in just the next two years. The MSL Society plans to present further detailed findings at its upcoming annual meeting in the spring of 2013.


    Clearly, MSL will continue to grow in importance over the foreseeable future. In the value the role brings to KOL relationships in helping them advance medicines, it has become crucial to the success of global pharmaceutical companies.

  • 01 Dec 2012 9:00 AM | Anonymous

    Dr. Samuel Dyer


    Over the last several years, the pharmaceutical industry has seen a dramatic decrease in the number of sales reps. This paradigm shift has been driven, in part, by direct feedback from physicians and Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) regarding the perceived value that sales reps deliver.


    Traditionally, pharma companies have considered the relationship between sales reps and KOLs to be very valuable. However, over the last several years, physicians and KOLs have increasingly reported that they actually prefer to engage with and place a much higher value on the information they receive from Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs). This preference is reportedly due to the level and depth of clinical exchange that physicians have with MSLs versus sales reps whose primary role is to promote. Even though the sales rep-physician relationship will continue to be vital to the success of pharma companies, physicians will likely increasingly prefer to engage with MSLs because of their ability to have peer-to-peer, non-promotional conversations. As a result, the MSL role has seen exponential growth during this same period and is increasingly playing a crucial role in the success of global pharmaceutical companies due to the value that they bring to KOL relationships.


    A number of recent studies have demonstrated this paradigm shift. In one study conducted by Thought Leader Select, both top and emerging KOLs reported that they prefer to engage primarily with MSLs versus sales reps, with less than 3% of respondents favoring sales reps. In another study, also by Thought Leader Select, physicians placed a 30% higher value on the information they received from MSLs versus the information they received from sales reps. Pharma companies can adapt to this paradigm shift and overcome the shrinking sales force presence by addressing the perception that KOLs have regarding the value that sales reps deliver.

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