It is all about the pull and less about the push when it comes to delivering an effective and valuable message to physicians without comprising compliance. And the panelists and speakers attending the Center for Business Intelligenceâ€™s Premier Opinion Leader Management Systems conference in King of Prussia, PA, couldnâ€™t agree more.
Over the next five years, if not much sooner, the evolution of sales, marketing, and medical affairs will dramatically shift. Speaking from a global prospective, Andreas Tsukada, associate director, sales operations, at UCB Pharma, said that a lot more coordination will be necessary. He noted that if leveraging KOL via the Internet works abroad, it might also be extended to the US as well.
Michael Schaffer, senior district manager, virology, at Abbott, believes that there will be fewer, more important KOLs (especially in the specialty marketplace) and less funding. As a result, pharma will be forced to do more with less, engaging MSLs instead of sales reps. However, it will be important to determine necessary roles for each organization, and go with that strategy. â€œThe key is communication internally within an organization,â€ said Deb Kientop, president of MSL360.
Meanwhile, Dale Hagemeyer, research vice president of Gartner, cautioned that risks still apply with MSLs. â€œIf it walks like a duck, it talks like a duckâ€ was the analogy he used to describe the comparison of sales rep vs. MSL. In order to separate the two, organizations need to understand what is and what is not permissible in terms of on- and off-label discussions. Until then, credibility and value will continue to be the driving forces behind sales.
Last but certainly not least, pharma will need to keep abreast of the MSLâ€™s changing role. Sivakumar Nadarajah, director of global CRM solutions at Cegedim Dendrite, points out the various roles of a MSL. He or she spends most of the time managing KOL relationships, performing research on KOLs, responding to medical inquiries, providing the commercial side of the company with knowledge, and collaborating internally (see above) with sales teams.
â€œAll these activities are done either manually or using multiple applications,â€ says Nadarajah. â€œProviding a unified software platform so that all these activities can be tracked and co-coordinated in a reportable manner will not only help MSLs become efficient, but also help them provide management visibility into their activities.â€