As described in the book Understanding Pharma: The Professional’s Guide to How Pharmaceutical and Biotech Companies Really Work, when a drug emerges from clinical development and is on the cusp of commercialization, Medical Affairs will lead the effort to explain to potential healthcare prescribers the real-world applications of the drug through the dissemination of unbiased clinical and scientific information.
Externally and internally to a pharmaceutical organization, the generation and communication of accurate medical and scientific information is a key activity of Medical Affairs professionals. Medical Affairs experts are the face of the company and their scientific and clinical expertise helps them facilitate the flow of information between the medical community and the organization. In the course of their interaction with the medical community, Medical Affairs professionals can learn a great deal about the market environment for a company’s products. This is market intelligence they would share with internal stakeholders. It is especially important for this information gathering prior to a product launch.
Internally, Medical Affairs bridges the research and commercial sides of the business. They synthesize information and translate findings about therapeutics/drugs into language that can be better understood by company staff whose primary expertise is not scientific. Additionally, Medical Affairs typically operates an information center to respond to unsolicited product inquiries from healthcare professionals. The information center is especially busy around the time of a market launch.
Information creation and sharing is the most common aspect across Medical Affairs teams in various organizations. Teams, however, can vary in their mission, scope of services, and organizational structure, and further responsibilities can include:
- Assuming the responsibility for additional clinical trials (non-registrational trials).
- Executing health economics and outcomes studies that can evaluate the impact of a drug’s use on variables such as medical costs and patient quality of life.
- Helping the brand team in formulating scientific strategy.
- Reviewing the clinical trial proposals submitted by independent investigators and determine if the outcomes merit financial support for the study.
- Defining a publication plan for each product and coordinating clinical/scientific communication at medical congresses.
- Cultivating relationships with Key Opinion Leaders (e.g., healthcare practitioners, academic researchers, experts in defined therapeutic areas).
- Sponsoring education programs for healthcare practitioners.
- Supporting internal training programs.
- Gathering and sharing market intelligence.
Medical Affairs Team Members Can Include:
- Medical Affairs Vice President
- Medical Affairs Manager
- Medical Director
- Head of Medical Affairs
- Director of Medical Affairs
- Associate Director of Medical Affairs
- Medical Advisor
- Senior Medical Advisor
- Regional Scientific Manager
- Medical Science Liaison (MSL)
- Clinical Trial Liaison (CTL)
- Medical Lead
- Medical Information Officer
- Health Economics and Outcomes Researcher (HEOR)
- Medical Affairs Trainer
- Medical Affairs Operations Director
If you enjoyed reading this article, you might also like to read “Reach New Heights in a New Medical Careers Role.”