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Free Webinar ‘Optimizing MSL Impact on KOL Relationships’

MSL Society WebinarsThe Medical Science Liaison role has exploded in growth over the last several years and as the healthcare industry continues to change, Pharmaceutical, Medical Device, and CRO companies are increasingly relying on the MSL to improve and strengthen KOL relationships.

As a result of these changes taking place in the healthcare industry, the challenge is to develop more effective strategies for KOL engagement. Some companies have developed very innovative approaches for their MSL team to engage with KOLs.

To learn how these companies are achieving success with their unusual approach to KOL relationships, join us during MSL Society next FREE Live webinar on Thursday, May 28th at 10 am (PDT), 1:00 pm (EDT), 6 pm London (BST), 7 pm Paris (CEST), and 8 pm Moscow (MSK).

Our distinguished panelists and presentations include:

Title: MSL Best Practices from China: Assessing the Impact of Medical Education Activities on KOLS & Other HCPs
Avery Ince, MD, PhD
VP of Medical Affairs
Janssen Pharmaceuticals, China

Title: MSLs – The Double Doctorate Role. One in Science and One in Communication
Global Head Immunology Medical Affairs
Baxter, USA

Title: KOL Access
Ruth Haile-Meskale, PharmD, MBA
Medical Science Liaison
ZS Pharma, USA

You can register for free here.


MSL Society Advisory Committee Announcement

We are excited to announce the MSL Society Advisory Committee and all it’s new members.

The committee consists of leaders from across the global MSL community who will advise the MSL Society on future strategy, direction and resources.

The Advisory Committee is a key link for the needs of MSL Society members and priorities for programs. Moreover, the Advisory Committee is an important avenue for MSL Society outreach. Advisory Committee members will provide marketing and awareness of the MSL Society to their own organizations and network.

The link below will navigate you to the Advisory Committee web-page.

MSL Society Advisory Committee



5 Key Principles of MSL interaction with Sales Reps

IMG_6161MSLs are traditionally separated from commercial functions like marketing or sales within pharmaceutical industry. The firewall between MSL team and sales normally helps to prevent inappropriate interactions when for example sales deliberately or not manipulate MSL activities for sales objectives. Some companies will not allow MSLs and reps to be in the room with the physician at the same time and many of those that have very specific policies on how those two functions can interact. Both the sales reps and the MSLs should have a clear understanding of the rationale and selective restrictions of the other functions – i.e. sales reps should know where MSLs participate in certain activities and MSLs know why sales reps behave the way they do. 5 key principles below may serve as a basis for a complementary MSL-Sales reps interaction model.

1. Adopt clear vision of what sales and MSL functions should accomplish for the company. MSL function is a more long-term competitive strategy and market access, than short-term, however executives who fund programs are often interested in short-term commercial input. If the access is gained through the MSL team there may be a temptation to deliver marketing messages through them also. The company has to create a clear policy on how both business units will interact based on their different objectives (scientific education versus product promotion).

2. Ensure an environment where concerns from both sides can be raised without fear. The team managers have to help their staff to understand the devide between the functions and describe the factors that separate the two roles including company policies and regulatory requirements. This can be made through corporate trainings and cross-functional questions and answers sessions. An internal updatable Q&A document will also be very helpful.

3. MSLs and sales reps are here to help each other within established boundaries and rules of engagement. In some cases the firewalls between functions may lead to prohibition for MSLs and reps to talk to each other, which becomes another barrier in alignment of their interactions. However these firewalls need not to be broken down to improve collaboration. When MSLs and sales reps work in culture of mutual respect, when each function compliments the other, both teams can improve their KOL interactions and together move their brand forward.

4. Introduce careful planning of teams interaction with KOLs. It’s not uncommon for both teams to target the same physicians to drive their separate goals, but without careful planning too many field representatives can easily overwhelm KOL. By collaborating, sales reps and MSLs can time their visits to ensure that KOLs see someone from the company on regular and acceptable intervals. When visiting a KOL MSLs or sales reps need to be aware of prior or existing interactions originating from the company without necessarily having to know the details of those interactions.

5. Engage with Corporate Compliance early to prevent issues. Ideally Compliance should be deeply involved in setup of the company policy regulating the interactions and devide between MSLs and sales reps. Nevertheless when conducting a training or a Q&A session for the teams it’s important to have compliance colleagues on board, which will help to quickly resolve any ad hoc questions and prevent bigger issues.




Is the MSL role understood?

EditedScreenShot_2015-01-03_13-02-05A common theme in my recent conversations with MSLs has been how companies can best organize the activities of medical teams and commercial teams in order build on departmental synergies, while respecting the specialities and boundaries of each team.

Morunda Asia conducted an online survey and a number of interviews around this topic, with a focus on the role of MSLs. All who took part were based in Singapore or Malaysia, and working in the pharmaceutical industry. The participants were of various levels of responsibility within Medical Affairs departments. This article gives a ‘broad-stroke’ overview of opinions in the region.

The opening question was “do you feel that the role of the MSL is clearly understood between medical and commercial colleagues”. It is notable that no-one felt it was “misunderstood” or “not understood”. Interestingly, only 16% said that the role was “clearly understood”.

The general consensus was that the “guiding principles” of an MSL were clearly understood; that MSLs are scientifically credible professionals who inform and guide HCPs using evidence. How these principles were translated into an operational role that worked effectively alongside other departments was where issues could arise.

Around 50% of participants felt that the role was “reasonably well understood”, and that most issues could be resolved through simply improving inter-departmental communication. For example, one Medical Advisor at a European MNC told me that the Medical Affairs team had faced questioning from the commercial team regarding KOL visits. The commercial team wanted Medical Representatives to be able to accompany MSLs on follow-up visits to KOLs. The commercial team’s thinking was that these would be opportunities for sales team members to get more, better quality time with thought leaders. The Medical Affairs leaders had to outline the necessity that MSLs are strictly ‘non-promotional’, and that this perception must be kept clear in the KOL’s mind. It was pointed out that opportunity actually arose from this distinction; the MSL has a broader remit in terms of discussion topics so they could foster a better understanding of the product’s value proposition. Once this was clearly explained, and the link between value proposition understanding and increased advocacy was established, then the commercial team could better appreciate why it wasn’t possible, and in fact was better not to have these joint visits

Within the second largest group of respondents (approx. 34%, who felt that the MSL role was understood “to some extent”), there was a little more frustration voiced. One Medical Director at an MNC mentioned that disagreement over the aims and means of the MSL role was still “frequent” despite “numerous meetings and discussions” between the relevant stakeholders. In some cases, this stemmed from an outdated concept of the MSL as a kind of “Super Medical Rep”, rather than being aware of the distinct functional advantages of the position. With such a conception of the role, MSLs would be tasked with a large number of hospital visits, and the company would expect to see a sales increase shortly afterwards. One Senior Manager pointed out that, from an operational perspective, this disconnect risked having a negative impact on the longevity of MSL services. If MSL counterparts at different organizations were perceived as having a clearer role, and ‘more respected’ status within the company, then they could be tempted to change to a “better” opportunity.

One MSL pointed out that, in their company, Marketing had always “called the shots”, so there was a degree of political interplay as departments jockeyed for influence. Those comments reflected a view held by MSLs at a number of companies that they and their Managers were almost “figuring out” the most effective role as they went along.

The solution to these frustrations, for one Regional Medical Director, was to have MSL deliverables clearly established. When KPIs were set out effectively, this would bring a number of benefits: (i) the activities of MSLs and how they related to improved commercial performance were better understood throughout the company, (ii) MSLs could be managed and developed more effectively through performance objectives, and (iii) the MSLs gained a greater sense of worth in their role.

Setting appropriate KPIs for MSLs is a broad area that will be covered in detail in a later article. However, one example that this Director gave was to have MSLs given measurable targets around formulary listings. The ability to convincingly present the product’s comprehensive value proposition to a team of e.g. Formulary Listing Heads would be an example of what an MSL could do, utilizing their specific scientific expertise to further commercial aims.

Overall, there was optimism amongst all participants. Healthcare practitioners expect increasing levels of scientific credibility in their interactions with pharmaceutical industry representatives. As long as the purpose and actions of an MSL can be agreed upon, then the MSL role can be at the forefront of this, engaging with stakeholders and sharing the insight needed to enable better health decisions for patients.

Written by James Oakes
Morunda Asia