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The role of medical affairs is taking on greater importance, as relationships between life sciences companies and external stakeholders become more complicated.
The role of medical affairs is taking on greater importance, as relationships between life sciences companies and external stakeholders become more complicated. Medical affairs is required to communicate more often with medical practitioners, scientific researchers, patients, patient advocates, and government authorities, and to provide these groups with more complex and more comprehensive information.
Unfortunately, many life sciences companies still think the goal of medical affairs should be to limit and control the content that the company gives to external stakeholders. Enterprises often create “silos” within their organizations, where medical affairs, sales and marketing people, and clinical researchers don’t share critical data. When this happens, medical affairs doesn’t get the information it needs to develop productive external relationships.
In November 2013, Cegedim conducted a series of interactive workshops with medical affairs directors and consultants and life sciences industry executives to discuss solutions for the tasks and challenges facing medical affairs today. This panel of experts concluded that the ultimate goal of medical affairs should be to drive value for their company. Medical affairs should seek to:
To accomplish these goals, the life sciences industry must completely reset its approach to medical affairs. Companies must include medical affairs as a full partner in all stages of the drug life cycle, from R&D to commercialization, and must grant medical affairs full access to essential information from all parties involved in this cycle.
Trends dictating change
To understand how the medical affairs function has changed, one should look at the external and internal macro trends currently affecting the life sciences industry. The external trends include increasing healthcare costs, the changing dynamics in world population, environmental factors, and more informed patients.
The internal trends within the industry that companies must address include the increasing focus on specialty care products, and the acceleration of product development, as factors such as the R&D drought, faster launches of “me-too” products, patent expirations, and the emergence of competing generics are driving companies to minimize time-to-market and time-to-peak-sales for new product launches.
Medical affairs is the keystone
To address these trends, medical affairs must seek to develop partnerships between life sciences companies and their external stakeholders, based on the exchange of accurate, comprehensive, and trustworthy information about the product, the disease, care procurement, and patient management. To do this, medical affairs needs to have better and more complete access to information within their organization.
Developing successful relationships with external stakeholders relies on medical affairs being able to:
But to truly drive value, medical affairs must take the lead in fostering collaboration and open communication between teams in different departments in their own company, and between these internal teams and external stakeholders. This requires that medical affairs be included as a full collaborative partner in the product cycle.
Allowing medical affairs to get involved in the drug development process during the early stages of R&D provides the foundation for a successful product launch. Medical affairs can develop a technical expertise regarding the product, which enables it to:
In terms of managing cross-collaboration of departments within their own organization, medical affairs should:
Let them lead
While life sciences organizations may be reluctant to give their medical affairs departments this much access to and control of information, the cost of not doing so can be even worse. A few extreme cases have received considerable media attention, where patients experienced negative health outcomes after getting inaccurate information about a medication. This kind of patient outcome can damage a company’s reputation, and may result in product recalls, cancellation of market authorization, and loss of profitability.
Allowing medical affairs to take the lead in developing collaborative relationships between internal and external stakeholders can only benefit the company. It helps to foster an open exchange of information that can provide valuable insights and calls-to-action to product developers, help speed product time-to-market and time-to-peak-sales, and help to ensure that all products and communications meet regulatory compliance.
Also, the ability of medical affairs to effectively enable these external/internal collaborative relationships is a key driver in promoting a company’s positive public image. It helps to develop a lasting rapport and trust with external stakeholders, making them more likely to recommend the company and depend on it for quality drug solutions.
Pierre Morgon is Chief Marketing Officer, Cegedim Group. He can be reached at Pierre.firstname.lastname@example.org