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Pharma Shuffles Thought Leaders


Pharmaceutical Executive

Pharmaceutical ExecutivePharmaceutical Executive-03-26-2008
Volume 0
Issue 0

A new study looks at the movement of thought leaders and medical science liaisons from primarily marketing to other areas of the pharma company. Though the shift might be minor (7 percent since 2002), it might be a sign of things to come.

Medical affairs departments have increasingly moved from marketing over the past six years. More than two-thirds of pharma companies have centralized medical affairs (MA), and roughly half align the function by therapeutic area.

These are a few key findings from a new report released last week by Cutting Edge Information. The study tracks how pharma has repositioned MA since 2002 and how money is allocated within the department.

The study was based on interviews with 14 pharma companies and focused on seven functions: thought leader development, MSL programs, publications. information, education, investigator-initiated trials, and grants.

Stand Alone
The biggest change was MA's shift away from marketing and into a stand-alone division. In 2002, 43 percent of MA personnel said they reported to the marketing division. Today, only 7 percent do so.

Of the departments surveyed, 14 percent now report to a stand-alone MA function, a division that didn't even exist in most companies in 2002, according to Cutting Edge.

"The medical affairs function has been elevated within pharmaceutical organizations because of compliance reasons, such as the OIG guidelines, and the restructuring of departments stemming from new regulations," says Amanda Zuniga, senior research analyst at Cutting Edge. "KOLs and thought leaders are branching out from marketing and becoming much more focused than previously."

Pay Scale
Accordingly, marketing no longer bankrolls the bulk of MA expenses. The data shows that 68 percent of MA costs are now covered by an MA-specific budget and another 18 percent comes from R&D. On average, the marketing department contributed only 7 percent.

"This is being done to ensure that medical affairs is focused more on the science of the pharma business, rather than risking MSLs having marketing influence," Zuniga said. "It gives them the opportunity to not be tied to marketing and to focus on what the clinical data is really saying."

On average, pharma companies allocate an annual $31.37 million to MA. That budget covers medical science liaison programs (18 percent of the total budget), thought leaders (16 percent), investigator-initiated trials (15 percent), publications (13 percent), education (11 percent), information (8 percent) and grants (4 percent). Functions not included in this list account for 15 percent of the average budget. Variations from company to company are, needless to say, considerable.

Look at the same functions in terms of staffing, and MSL programs receive 31 percent of full-time equivalents, 11 percentage points more than thought leaders. Med-ed employees accounted for only 9 percent of total staffing.

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