Challenges and Trends in Medical Affairs 30 Nov 2022
Medical affairs is the department in a pharmaceutical company tasked with communicating accurate information to health care providers (HCPs). It is also responsible for generating evidence, demonstrating value, and managing relationships with key thought leaders and stakeholders. To fulfil their remit, medical affairs teams are staffed with highly trained people, usually holding advanced master’s degrees.
In recent years, tightening regulations have pushed the pharma industry away from the sales approach, increasing reliance on the medical science liaisons (MSLs) in their medical affairs teams to convey accurate scientific information to HCPs without resorting to off-label promotion.
With the reduction in the sales force, and greater pressure on MSLs, companies must ensure that their MSLs are well trained and compliant with the latest regulations affecting scientific communications, in order to deliver accurate information. Physicians are seeking peer-to-peer interaction on value-driven discussions underpinned by science.
There is an increasing trend towards evidence-based decisions among stakeholders and medical affairs must provide the company’s value proposition in a balanced way, backed by solid evidence.
Evidence Generation and Insights
Today, medical affairs is uniquely placed to consolidate different criteria, ranging from product information to market and patient access, budget impact, scientific facts and regional differences, in order to present the most relevant and impactful data to payers, providers and patients. Successful evidence planning and presentation meets decision makers’ demands and brings real-world benefits to patients.
One challenge facing the pharma industry is pressure on companies’ overall budgets from portfolio growth and the trend towards developing more complex therapies, such as Advanced Therapy Medicinal Products. On the other side, governments have limited budgets to pay for these new treatments. Medical affairs teams must ensure that they justify the medical education budget, ensuring their communications are relevant and presented through the most effective channel for stakeholders, to gain buy-in and reimbursement.
Staying Relevant: Patient Perspective
Real-world evidence is increasingly important in demonstrating the value of new therapies to payors. The rapid expansion in the generation and usage of real-world data in recent years means medical affairs teams need to assess and utilise them to prove the worth of treatments on an ongoing basis. Emphasis on patient-centricity must be increased, with medical affairs engaging with a wider range of stakeholders to understand the needs and target areas for patients.
In addition, the trend of patients taking a more active role in their own healthcare decisions and researching information away from their GP, means medical affairs must ensure that scientific information is tailored to the understanding of those without medical training.
Medical affairs can gain insights from patients through two-way conversations with patients and patient advocacy groups. Furthermore, social media channels can be leveraged to gain a broader understanding of the views of both patients and HCPs.
The proliferation and availability of new types of patient data need to be considered, too, although access may be governed by data privacy rules. Potential sources include medical histories, hospital stays, hospital dispensing, diagnosis, procedures, prescriptions, specialist care and outcomes.
A Comprehensive Approach
Medical affairs today is an increasingly complex discipline that encompasses a broad spectrum of requirements. An effective team must have a spread of competencies to meet these evolving demands.
Outsourcing the medical affairs capability is one way to ensure that these varying obligations are met, without the costs and time involved in setting up and training an in-house team. A company’s specific needs can be met by engaging external experts with deep understanding of the sector. These experts can get on with the job, freeing company executives to focus on other work.
As noted earlier, pharma companies’ drug development expenditure is rising and it is important that the value of treatments is communicated effectively to the right stakeholder, at the right time and in the right way to ensure uptake and, ultimately, improved health for patients.
For an initial discussion about how PharmaMedic Consultancy can help with medical affairs support, please get in touch.