Why introverts make the BEST Medical Affairs people!

By Dr. Alexander Tolmachev

When physicians hear the word “Pharma representative” most of them may imagine an over-smiley, flashy field force guy, ready to chat with you on any topics, and when it comes to discuss the pharmaceutical product he will start speaking with marketing messages sometimes despite relevance and without deep understanding of therapeutic area. This also concerns MSLs and Medical Advisors though doesn’t really describe the expected approach to potential customers in Medical Affairs. Still the field force people may keep this behavior to save good relations with physicians, as extroverts often do. Spontaneous behavior provides fun and generally speaking good impression. But physicians may also become suspicious of someone who is constantly smiling, laughing, joking, and talking. It is true that most extroverts tend to earn trust quickly through getting into a relationship and figuring things out, which is a great quality in social setting. Still is this what the physicians really expect from MSLs? As any potential customers medical society has its needs and it is a chance for Pharma to fulfill them.

The key to being successful in Medical Affairs is understanding what needs drive the physicians or KOLs and how you can help them fulfill those needs. This is where being an introvert may be advantage. This are the fields where introvert excel.

1. Study their product and therapeutic area deeply, knowing the strengths, weaknesses, and ideal prospect. As all introverts tend to keep investigating their subject deeper over time they become experts that customers may rely on and this is how they start building trust as best advisors ever.

2. First listen then speak. Before they even begin to talk with physicians about what they have, they will determine if the customer is a good prospect to work with. Customers will feel that this professional is consistent: first investigating the needs and issues then finding the best service. And this MSL is respecting the customers’ time through minimizing small-talk, which is really important considering common time restrictions.

3. Prepare their communication and anticipate objections. That’s because introverts have enough empathy to think how theirs customers think and realize that objections is a good thing and a ladder to trustful relationship. Their deep approach to other people’s needs combined with most short and informative messages result in clear and relevant presentations.

4. Think about the long-term value of the customer. Introverts need stability in their career and relations with the customers. More over they treasure their deep relationships and connections. The only way to keep it stable is thinking about the future needs of the customers and potential solutions. It takes longer to build this type of collaboration, but it’s the only way to create long-term success.

So the talkative, loud, constantly laughing guy may be not the “born for success” in Medical Affairs; the quiet, introspective, hard-working person is. That’s not to say extroverts are lacking of good qualities for Medical Affairs — the ability to approach people is crucial for working with large teams and number of customers. The difference is that introverts will often work hard to develop the extrovert’s skills, while the extroverts will continue to try to get by on their natural charms. As an extrovert, you can still be a top performer; you may simply take the best qualities of introverts and pull them into your work style.


Measuring Medical Science Liaison Contribution

By Dr. Alexander Tolmachev

Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs) are immersed in the generation of intangible value for internal and external stakeholders. Industry’s MSL teams are facing the same generic challenge – how to measure the value of ideas and insights, and how to subsequently track the team’s unique contribution to a remote outcome.

Measuring strategies may vary from company to company, but most MSL teams use a combination of quantitative and qualitative metrics when communicating value to internal stakeholders. This combination was born of perceptual and practical considerations: MSLs often perceived strictly quantitative metrics as sales based function (and therefore inappropriate from a compliance standpoint); on the other hand, company executives often perceive strictly qualitative metrics as insufficient from a business justification standpoint. Since MSL team value is not easily shown through quantitative metrics such as number of visits, frequency of client contacts, or numbers of presentations, etc, medical liaison organizations have to think creatively to be able to show their value. However 48% of surveyed pharma respondents say they see a lack of quantitative metrics in MSL teams.

Analyzing key contributions of MSL team will help to understand the measurements needed to reflect that contribution. A metric appropriate to MSL involvement in Phase I to Phase III of product development is a summary of clinical study site recommendations coming from MSL that is eventually accepted by the Clinical Research for participation in clinical trials.
Since one of the MSLs’ contributions during this stage of product development includes scientific exchange (a dialogue with medical society), the quality and outcome of this scientific exchange can be useful as a metric. A satisfaction survey of thought leaders who interact with the MSLs can provide information on the quality of scientific exchange from the company’s MSLs. Parameters of such a satisfaction survey may include the completeness of response given by MSLs, timeliness of response, and thought leader’s perception of the quality of interaction.The company’s objectives in establishing such exchange, including increasing awareness of company presence within a therapeutic area, may also be developed into ‘thought leader awareness’ surveys. In order to measure satisfaction of internal stakeholders the same approach of satisfaction survey might be utilized.
For MSLs involved in IIS programs, metrics generally focus on quality of submitted proposals and alignment of submitted proposals to a product development strategy. The quality and quantity of portfolio activities can serve as metrics by describing effectiveness and productivity of the MSL team. Companies may, however, focus on only quantitative metrics, by just ‘counting activities’. When MSLs are given a role in field-based responses to unsolicited medical queries that can include off-label uses, forcing use of simple number of requests as a metric may encourage solicited requests by MSLs who need to reach their expected volume.
Value metrics and volume metrics of MSL performance may play different roles for MSL managers. While value metrics are aimed mostly on internal stakeholders and demonstration of reached outcomes of activities, volume metrics that show MSL contribution may be utilized internally by Medical Affairs for tactical and corrective decisions. Among volume metrics most often are mentioned such as number of IIS proposals submitted, number of publications authored, number of MSL promotional speeches, direct contribution to company research, internal customer feedback, advisory boards supported, number of scientific speeches by MSL, number of speakers trained, etc.

Role of Medical Science Liaison team at product launch

By Dr. Alexander Tolmachev

During a Phase 3 trial, Medical Affairs teams usually identify journal targets and congresses to announce trial results. When the trial is complete, teams start to prepare journal articles, abstracts and posters. Actually Medical Science Liaisons get involved to market preparation in advance of the launch activities. Their first task looks simple – to listen. MSLs should listen carefully to physician needs for a particular disease area, learning where current treatments are insufficient and what physicians would like to see in a new product. This input becomes extremely valuable later on as the company creates product messages and the scientific platform for publications.
Closer to product launch, MSLs should be trained on the new drug/indication. If the new product is in a familiar therapeutic area to the company, then existing MSLs can receive additional product training. But if the product expands into a new therapeutic area, then MSL managers are left with a difficult decision — bring new MSLs on board or shift resources to properly support the new product.

Although medical communications and MSL teams start supporting products early in their lifecycle, other medical functions need to be prepared for increased workloads at product launch. Medical educational projects and investigator initiated studies have to be planned and budgeted in advance (at least preliminary).

Before the product/new indication launch, MSL teams are the only ones that are permitted to provide off-label data upon unsolicited requests from physicians and thought leaders. If an unsolicited request is coming from HCPs through other functions (sales, marketing), MSLs yet have to contact with physicians directly just updating internal partners about request resolution. Off-label requests solicited (prompted) by pharma company personnel are illegal and considered bad promotion.

Pre-launch is the most important period when MSLs are generating awareness and build relationships with thought leaders. Therefore success of MSL means ability to make the launched product a long-expected solution in their practice. Following product launch, MSL programmes continue activities relating to scientific exchange and building peer-to-peer relationship with thought leaders. This process requires good planning with individual thought leader development plan as a basic tool reflecting any activities involving the HCP. These activities may include clinically supporting educational activities, speaker training programmes, facilitating the company’s clinical study publication plans. The quality and quantity of portfolio activities can serve as metrics by describing effectiveness and productivity of the MSL team.


The Life of an MSL–the First Month: DUSA’s Amy Joseph

To get a fresh perspective on the role of medical science liaisons, the MSL Society Blog recently sat down with Amy Joseph, a newcomer to the profession after serving for nearly 12 years as a clinical and retail pharmacist.  After completing her PharmD at Northeastern University in 2000, Amy worked in the greater Boston area at CVS Pharmacy, Women and Infant’s Hospital, Kent Hospital, Care New England, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Amy is in her first year as an MSL at DUSA Pharmaceuticals, a company focused on dermatology treatments, and she was kind enough to share some of her insights on the MSL role after completing her first month on the job.

MSL Society:  What drew you to the MSL profession?

Amy Joseph:  The main draw for me was a new challengeundefineda change. Remaining stagnant or reaching a plateau is not good for the human spirit; therefore, my mindset has always been to incorporate some degree of change in all aspects of life, including work. The MSL role interested me because it incorporates my clinical practice experience in a unique way for me.

MSL Society:  How did you prepare for the leap from clinical pharmacy to working in pharmaceuticals?

Amy Joseph:  My preparation involved updating my CV and doing a lot of networkingundefinedthat’s how I found Dr. Samuel Dyer and the MSL Society. It was a happy coincidence that the first society meeting took place just one month into my search for a MSL position.

I found this meeting extremely helpful, along with reading online about how to be successful in the role. I thought the timing for the transition was ideal, as the MSL role is becoming increasingly recognized for its value to the pharmaceutical industry.

MSL Society:  What were your first impressions of the role and working in pharmaceuticals?

Amy Joseph:  My first impressions aligned with my expectations that this role would be challenging and exciting.  So far, I’ve felt that I made the right choice in pursuing this position at DUSA.

MSL Society:  What have you enjoyed most about your new role as an MSL?

Amy Joseph:  I have most enjoyed the new challenges brought about by this change. Also, I enjoy the flexibility, driving my own schedule independently,  the travel, and meeting new thought leaders.  I am grateful for all of these aspects of my roleundefinedit’s been very fulfilling.

MSL Society:  Has anything surprised you about the MSL role?

Amy Joseph:  I’ve been most surprised by the depth of the relationships that I’ve been able to form in a short amount of time in the MSL position.  I am fascinated by how much impact these relationships have on the dissemination of scientific data among the medical community, which ultimately leads to improving patient care. Although building these relationships often takes time and patience, proving the value that MSLs provide gives me a surprising level of fulfillment each time.

MSL Society:  If you could give any tips to other newcomers facing early challenges in the MSL role, what would they be?

Amy Joseph:  The strongest challenges that I face in this still very new transition right now are many, but certainly not insurmountable!  First, you have to figure out how to meet the set of expectations that are required to demonstrate to your company’s leadership your value as an MSL

Second, you have to navigate regulatory and compliance guidelines while still remaining effective in your role.  Third, you have to accept that this position is not something you can master solely by studying materialundefinedthat’s important, certainly, but you also learn so much with each thought leader interaction as you’re building relationships in the medical field.

Fourth, you need to realize quickly that it will just take time to feel comfortable in the role, and that you need to be patient with yourself, along with getting patience from your employer.  Finally, you have to learn how to integrate your company’s unique business strategy with the medical minds of your thought leader panel, within the allowed regulatory confines and only with the resources available to you.