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Topic 45: Medical Affairs Insights – A Key Value Proposition

Overview

On this blog we have discussed the challenges of communicating medical affairs value a number of different times. Specifically, we have addressed the topic here (Topic 6), we have discussed MA value at launch here (Topic 3), and addressed the use of NPS measures in communicating value here (Topic 43).

On subject that we have not addressed is the importance of MA Insights in communicating value to internal stakeholders.

MA has always shared its insights with its internal stakeholders, but in the past the process has been fairly unstructured in the form of MA team members who are working with other functions on specific projects sharing their knowledge. For example, when MA field teams are responsible for helping clinical development identify and initiate sites, they may bring back to the clinical team leadership feedback about the protocol that they learned during their discussions with PIs. Or MA members of cross-functional launch teams may share insights that they gathered doing disease state education that may help commercial colleagues better understand and craft commercial scientific messages.

In the last year or so I have worked with a number of clients that are looking to take these “insight value moments” and make them more frequent by structuring the process for gathering and sharing insights.

Before I share my thoughts on how to best leverage MA insights to drive organizational value, some standard caveats:

  • MA is not a market research organization and must never imply that the insights gathered are anything more than valuable but anecdotal information (the plural of anecdote is not data)
  • MA is not in the business of “taking orders” from other areas for specific insights, but should at least understand what those areas are interested in (see more on this below)
  • MA’s gathering of insights should organically grow from its peer-to-peer scientific interactions, communications and education activities only

Three Elements of Successful Insight Capture and Communication

With that said, I want to share some of the keys to gathering and communicating valuable insights from MA to internal stakeholders.  Three elements are required to successfully provide value through insights:

  1. Awareness of Current Environment and Important Topics
  2. Method for Capturing Insights
  3. Approach for Communicating Valuable Insights

I will review each element in more detail below.

Awareness of Current Environment and Important Topics

MA personnel that interact with HCPs and others in the field are constantly learning new information. However, everything that they learn is not worth their time to document nor the time of internal stakeholders to review. As the saying  goes, if you do not know what you are looking for, you will never find it.

So how do we make MA personnel that interact with others in the field aware of what are potentially valuable insights for their internal stakeholders? We need to educate them on the internal stakeholders’ situation.

Primary internal stakeholders for MA insights are:

  • Clinical Development
  • Commercial
  • Managed Markets

Each internal stakeholder group has different areas of interest. In order to identify that MA has learned something useful to these groups we need to understand their context – we need to know what is important to them.

Clinical Development

Many MA staff already have a good understanding of the priorities and activities of the clinical development function because they have to discuss the organization’s pipeline and development efforts with HCPs.

Types of Insights Sought by Clinical Development:

  • Competing studies in the TA where CD has existing or upcoming studies
  • Current off-label use of existing marketed products
  • Areas of interest about new indications for existing or planned products
  • Feedback and challenges with existing studies or protocols
  • Enthusiasm for future participation in clinical trials

In order to provide this type of insights, the MA staff needs to understand the context of the current clinical development environment. They need to understand the following:

Elements of Clinical Development Context:

  • Detailed pipeline and development strategy for existing products
  • Protocols of ongoing and recruiting studies in their TA
  • Current status of ongoing trials, including challenges being based

Commercial

MA organizations have a firewall with commercial for a reason. MA is non-promotional and therefore cannot be seen taking orders from or executing work on behalf of the commercial organization. However, non-promotional does not have to mean commercially uniformed. As long as the communication is one-way, MA sharing insights it learns to commercial, than MA can provide value to commercial without becoming a promotional organization.

Types of Insights Sought by Commercial:

  • Feedback on commercial launch activities from HCPs
  • New studies from competitors in the organization’s TAs of interest
  • Changes in a competitors approach to communicating with the HCPs
  • New information about competitor’s pipeline
  • Feedback about the scientific messaging in commercial communications

In order to provide this type of insights, the MA staff needs to understand the context of the current commercial environment. They need to understand the following:

Elements of Commercial Context:

  • Product positioning in the TA
  • Product differentiation in the TA
  • Commercial messaging
  • Competitive landscape

Managed Markets

MA organizations have different relationships with managed market organizations based on the company. Some MA groups are tightly integrated with managed markets, with MA staff specialized to support management markets. Other organizations have limited contacts. Regardless of the structure, MA can provide valuable insights to managed markets.

Types of Insights Sought by Managed Markets:

  • Reimbursement concerns expressed by HCPs
  • Changes / surprises encountered by HCPs in reimbursement for company’s products
  • Communications received by HCPs from payers concerning the company’s products or competitor’s products
  • Competitive product reimbursement changes

In order to provide this type of insights, the MA staff needs to understand the context of the current managed market environment. They need to understand the following:

Elements of Managed Market Context:

  • Overall payer environment
  • Payer relationships within the region
  • IDN relationships within the region

Summary of Awareness

With an understanding of the clinical development, commercial and managed markets context, MA personnel can be aware of any insights they may encounter during their dealings with HCPs and be able to highlight those that have the greatest potential for impact on the organization.

As one of my clients put it, we need to shift MA personnel from Medical People to Medical Business People, adding to their knowledge base an awareness of the entire organization’s business.

Method for Capturing Insights

MA insights do not come on a schedule. They can occur whenever MA interacts with an HCP. For that reason, there needs to be an easy, efficient method for capturing insights as they occur. Many organizations leverage their customer relationship management (CRM) systems. Systems like Veeva can be tailored to capture the insights and, with simple drop down lists, at the time of entry they can be coded for internal stakeholder group or groups that may be most interested in the insight.

Leveraging the CRM system has another advantage – visibility. While insights do not come on a set schedule, MA leadership needs to encourage everyone with HCPs interactions to capture insights. The CRM can be used to track who has entered insights in the last period. While I strongly discourage any type of “minimum number of insights” metric, managers should still track who is entering insights and work with any MA team member that interacts with HCPs and fails to capture insights over a significant period of time.

Approach for Communicating Valuable Insights

If MA wants to maximize the impact of its insights, it must communicate them to the internal stakeholders in such a manner that the insights are actionable. Simply providing internal stakeholders with a laundry list of a hundred bullet points of insights, mixing different topics and hoping that they can sort it out to find the needle in the haystack.

Unfortunately this requires the application of judgment, which takes time and attention. However, in return for this effort the MA organization can produce a consistently useful and effective report of competitive intelligence on an ongoing basis. This approach requires the following steps:

  1. All insights are entered into the system (see previous element above) and coded for internal stakeholder group
  2. A single reviewer is selected for each stakeholder group reviews all the insights for that group for a given period and:
    • Identifies key trends
    • Highlights the insights that are potentially most impactful
    • Identifies miscoded insights or insights that may impact more than one stakeholder group
  3. The single reviewer summarizes the results of the for the stakeholder group

Once a summary of the key trends and highlighted insights are developed, the MA reviewer can meet on a periodic basis with a representative of the stakeholder to review the insights and provide context. These insight review sessions can be a very powerful example of how MA drives value into the entire organization.

 

Conclusion

MA is a significant organization investment. Any opportunity for MA to share its value with its key stakeholders helps it to solidify the important role that MA plays in organization success. Providing actionable insights to the organization is a key way that MA can share its value.

 

What is your experience with Insight identification, capture and communication? Leave a comment.

 

 

Topic 44 – Amarin Settlement and What It Means for MA

We have been following the developments in the Amarin off-label communication case for awhile and you can find our posts that provide background here, here, and here.

In brief, Amarin has an FDA-approved indication to market its fish oil supplement as a treatment for very high triglycerides. It conducted a study that showed it lowered the triglycerides in moderately high patients but the FDA declined to approve the label extension because Amarin failed to prove a link to prevention of coronary artery disease. Amarin then informed the FDA that it intended to communicate the triglyceride lowering data to the market and the FDA informed them that it would consider any such communication off-label promotion. Amarin then sued the FDA for unfair restraint. Amarin was granted an injunction against the FDA, which appealed the decision.

In the latest development, the FDA has settled with Amarin, closing down the appeal before a ruling could be made to set clear precedence. In the settlement, which can read about here, the FDA agreed that Amarin could inform doctors of the studies supporting the fact that its product lowered triglycerides in a range of patients as long as the data presented was truthful.  It also set up an “optional” provision in which Amarin can meet bi-annually with the FDA to review the material that they wish to present to ensure that the FDA will find that information truthful and any disagreements from these discussions would be sent to a court to make the final decision.

The FDA’s perceived fear of a precedence setting ruling is not going to go unnoticed. Already another pharma company, Pacira, is suing the FDA under similar circumstances, which you can read about here.

If this case is also settled, expect to see the floodgates open.

It is more than past due time for the FDA to provide clear guidance to industry on the use of truthful, non-misleading communication of scientifically valid data that is not supported by the label. When that guidance is finally offered, it will be a game changer for MA. We believe that most organizations will realize that the safest way to communicate such scientific data will be through the use of peer-to-peer communication driven by medical science liaison-type roles and this will lead to a major expansion of many MSL groups.

We will continue to follow this story. We would love to know what you think. Leave a comment.

Topic 36 – Off-Label Promotion Prosecution is Changing – and Medical Affairs Should Benefit

Normal disclaimer: I am not a lawyer just a lay observer.

I was at the 3rd Annual World Congress Summit on the Evolving Role of Medical Affairs.  As in the last two years, one of the highlights is the presentation by a representative of the OIG and US States Attorney on Off-Label Promotion.

Usually this is an opportunity for them to remind us that pharma is not allowed to promote off label, trot out examples of people who were prosecuted for off-label promotions (which are almost exclusively Sales and Marketing examples, not MA examples) and then encourage us to snitch on our organizations if we think we see this behavior.

But this year was different.  This year we were all introduced to an important new term – Off-label Plus.  What does Off-label Plus mean?  It’s how they refer to cases that they are willing to prosecute.  In light of the Caronia ruling (an overview of which you can find here, with subsequent commentary here and here), they are no longer willing to base cases on simply promoting off label (assuming the test laid out in Caronia that the off-label information presented is from a credible, unbiased source, like a “real” journal, and the presentation is not misleading).  Instead, they are only willing to go after cases where there is Off-Label Plus something else, like Kickbacks or Fraud of some type.

In my opinion this is huge for medical affairs – most medical affairs organizations are unwilling to proactively share even an article published in the NEJM if it is off-label out of fear of being accused of promoting off-label.  Instead we wait to be asked, since responding to a question is not promotion.  I think the fear of promotion is now unjustified.

The simple reality is that even before Caronia no medical affairs employee has ever been prosecuted for simply providing accurate, non-misleading off-label information.  Caronia  was a sales guy, not medical affairs. The only example that the prosecutor could cite of an MA employee being prosecuted was a device company where the medical affairs lead used speaking fees as a kick backs.   Now that Caronia is out there, I think the risk is even lower.

Just like our treatments, all of medical affairs is a risk / benefit.  If we wanted zero risk, we would not have medical affairs or sales or marketing for that matter.  Instead we reduce our risks through the use of strong processes and a compliance function to ensure those processes remain in place.  It is my assertion that providing credible, non-misleading peer-reviewed published off-label data pro-actively is no longer a major risk, assuming there are procedures in place to avoid all the other “Plus” activities.

I don’t expect this to change overnight, but some organizations are going to start operating this way and when the sky does not fall, all medical affairs organizations will be operating this way – my guess is within 5 years.  And this is all for the best – its good for HCPs because they will have the latest information, its good for patients because their HCPs will be well informed and its good for medical affairs because it allows us to do our jobs even better than today.

What do you think?  Leave a comment by clicking here.

Topic 33: Significant Future Risk of Naming and Shaming in Clinical Trial Results Posting

The Problem

We have talked a lot about big data on this blog, and that’s because it’s a game changer.

As evidence, did you see this article in the NEJM? It’s a research analysis in which they pulled the entire ClinicalTrials.gov database and analyzed it to determine who has been publishing summarized clinical trials results as required by FDAAA from 2007. This analysis was done by cardiologists at Duke, and what got the headlines was that only 38% of completed studies had their data posted as required by the law.

However, dig a little deeper and with more of our focus and you can learn some interesting things about the biopharma industry. Of all the 13,300 (all numbers rough for discussion purposes) completed clinical trials analyzed, 66% were industry sponsored or roughly 8700 trials. Only 5100 of the 13,300 completed clinical trials reported any results, and of 3600 of those 5100 reporting trials, or 71%, were industry trials. So, in a world of terrible compliance, industry was punching above its weight. That still leaves some 5100 industry trials with not results posted despite the law.

BUT, you say, isn’t there some exception for holding back results until after FDA approval/rejection. Yes, a company can file a certificate which allows it to delay posting results in that circumstances. Of the 5100 completed industry trials missing data only 2000 certificates were filed – leaving 3100 or 36% of all industry trials unreported or uncertified per the law.

This is where big data and company reputation risk raises its ugly head. There are big data sources already out there that read all the data from ClinicalTrials.gov. With today’s big data tools it is a straight forward exercise to determine which industry company sponsored which trial and whether it reported/certified per the law. They will also know which products have failed to report/certify if the products are approved. It is not long from now that some reporter will put this together and produce a list of the “best and worst biopharma companies for publishing results” – some uncharitable media outlets (and which ones are charitable to biopharma) may even imply sinister intent at “denying their legal obligation to share this data – what are they hiding.”

Implications for Medical Affairs and Clinical Development

There is a unique opportunity to head this potential distraction off at the pass. We don’t want our MA field team’s spending time justifying why the company is not posting data.

While maintaining ClinicalTrials.gov is generally the responsibility of the CD in most organizations, MA has a strong vested interest to ensuring that the company is bullet proof in this area. MA and CD need to collaborate to make sure that data is posted or the certificates are filed. A process audit to confirm that the processes are in place and are working, as well as verifying that the company does not have any missing posting or filings, is a small bit of work that can save a huge amount of distraction for the entire organization in the future.

What has been your experience in this area? Leave a comment

Topic 32: Big Data in MA – Revisited

Overview

A couple of years ago I wrote a post (check it out here) on the emergence of big data for Medical Affairs. Given the rapid evolution of big data, two years is a long time ago so it’s worth revisiting this topic.

Let’s recap what we mean by “big data.” It is a broad concept, but for our discussion today we will be using big data to refer to the new capability to pull together huge quantities of data that were not directly generated for the purpose they are now being applied. Biopharma has excelled at generating proprietary data sets for a specific purpose, but big data take advantage of non-proprietary data that was generated for a different purpose by applying it in a new way.
These external data sources range in structure, format and value. The real trick to big data is pulling the data from disparate sources, efficiently cleaning it and standardizing it to allow it to be cross-referenced, then finding novel ways to use it.

Example of Big Data in MA

In the last couple of years we have seen examples of companies set up to provide big data services to MA. I will single out one here as an example, but this is not intended as an endorsement. I have no relationship with this company or practical experience with their products.

The company, Med’meme, is a case study of big data in MA. Based on their website, Med’meme takes large, public data sets – in this case lists of scientific presentations from medical meetings and peer-reviewed journals and clinical trial information at least – and in their backroom they apparently standardize it to make all those data cross referenceable. How well they do this, how complete and how accurate the data is, I can’t say. But, when you think about that data source as an MA professional I am sure you are jumping to a bunch of potential uses – like the ability to rank KOLs, to identify new KOLs, to track TA trends in publishing, to identify potential investigators, to be alerted to new publication identification, etc.

And that is the beauty of big data – there does not appear to be anything in their data set that has not been available (with some costs) to biopharma for years. Their service is finding a way to scrape it all together, standardize it and allow it to be searched effectively.

Buy v Build in Big Data

When I first published the article about big data I had a number of “buy vs. build” questions. The reality of big data in its current form is about re-using publically available data in novel ways, so building it internally is unlikely to produce proprietary value. However, combining these data sets with proprietary data, or asking interesting and unique questions of the data is something that can remain proprietary – so some hybrid solutions may be valuable.

If big data is not a part of the MA information technology planning it should be.  This capability represents an opportunity for strategic advantage in the short-term until it is widely adopted.

Conclusion

Big data is a new reality. A huge new data set, the Sunshine Act database, has just come on-line, and other data sources are increasingly making their data available for these types of analysis. Expect to see major development in this area in the coming couple of years.

What has been your experience with big data in MA? Leave a comment.

Topic 31: Changing Relationship between Medical Affairs and Access & Reimbursement

Note: This is a revised and extended version of a post I first published two years ago. This issue continues to evolve and be an area of focus for many MA Leaders.

Introduction

I received a question about what an optimal relationship should be between MA and Access & Reimbursement in the US. Access & Reimbursement (AR) is the function in pharma that is primarily responsible for negotiating the relationship between the company and the major payers and/or providers. In some organizations this group is known as Managed Markets, Market Access, Payer Relationship, or Contracting. Their primary goal is ensuring that the company’s drugs are listed as advantageously as possible on the formulary of the payer.

AR has to make the case for reimbursement of their drug to a payer/providers Pharmacy and Technology Committee (P&T Committee) which is the body that ultimately makes the decision for the payer/provider. In the US, these P&T Committees consider the efficacy and safety of the treatment but they also consider the cost effectiveness of the treatment and its impact on total cost of care for a patient when deciding where to place the treatment on their formularies. The AR function has had to deal with a range of both government and private payers/providers, each with their own formularies.
The AR function in the US has grown in importance as the payers/providers have worked to limit their exposure to treatments they viewed as not cost effective through formulary placements that drive limitations like prior authorizations and co-payments for the patients. Even specialty areas like oncology, which used to have very few restrictions, are now seeing greater control exerted by the payers.

Defining a New Relationship

Just as the pressures on AR are forcing changes in the way they work with payers, those same pressures are changing the relationship between MA and AR. In the past, MA had a limited role to play in AR. For example, MA may have had a responsibility to train AR Account Managers on the scientific underpinnings of a new treatment, not dissimilarly to how MA may train sales staff. And AR might have occasionally asked an MA resource, typically Field Medical, to provide some scientific support for a formulary presentation. But, in general, these situations were ad hoc and limited.

However, now that AR’s success more directly drives the success of the pharma company and thus their importance has grown, the relationship between AR and MA is changing.

For a P&T Committee to control costs, they must be able to differentiate between treatments. This drives two major scientific needs:

  1. The formulary committee needs a more robust scientific understanding of the drug’s properties, its known efficacy, its known risks and its place in the overall therapeutic area’s treatment options
  2. The formulary committee is demanding more specialized data, specifically health economics and outcomes research (HEOR) data like cost effectiveness and total cost of care, and comparator data to allow them to understand the full impact of the drug’s use

Both of these ramped up requirements have direct impact on MA’s relationship with AR.

More Robust Scientific Understanding

MA’s role in terms of providing scientific support for P&T Committee presentations is growing from a part of the presentation to the core of the presentation. And with that growth comes the need for greater specialization by the presenters.
MA which develops and delivers the scientific elements of those presentations need to have a much more robust understanding of their P&T Committee audiences and how to effectively meet their scientific needs. This is leading to two trends in MA:

  1. Much greater degree of training for Field Medical on the role of AR and P&T Committees
    OR
  2. The identification and hiring of full time Field Medical-type roles specifically targeted at supporting AR

Given the importance of AR, supporting their needs can no longer be seen by MA as a side responsibility. Instead, it needs to be a core responsibility and an investment in training or personnel is needed to ensure that that Field Medical is prepared to adequately support this need. In addition to training, this will require new measures to be put in place to track Field Medical effectiveness, which I will discuss in a future blog post.

More Specialized Data

In many organizations, MA has taken the lead in developing data post-approval. And while HEOR has always been a part of generating that post-approval data, its importance has grown significantly. The increased demand for HEOR data has a number of implications:

  • HEOR data should start being gathered in Phase 3B at least, and thus MA HEOR leaders need to engage with clinical development to ensure endpoints are included to begin the generation of HEOR data sets
  • Post-Approval Data Generation Plans, which should be developed by MA to help drive the post-approval study efforts, must give greater consideration to the HEOR needs
  • The priority given to Investigator Initiated Studies that cover HEO subjects may need to increase
  • The need for specialized MA resources dedicated to developing and managing HEOR may need to increase, with new dedicated positions developed
  • Processes for ensuring that the input of AR is gathered in the development of HEOR protocols should be re-examined to ensure that the results will meet the demands of the key formulary committees

In some companies have decided that HEOR is so important to AR that they have shifted the leadership of this research to the AR function itself. Whether the HEOR function reports to AR or is developed within MA, the need to ensure that the changing needs of P&T Committees are addressed has become a major priority for post-approval research.

Closing Thoughts

MA’s role as the owner of scientific education and communication for post-approval drugs is a critical element in today’s formulary-driven environment. MA needs to be an active partner to AR as it works to ensure patient access to the company’s drugs.

In your experience what has been the key to effective MA / AR partnership? Leave your comments below.

If you have a topic you would like me to cover, please email me from the link to the right.

Topic 28: Big Data and Medical Affairs

“The era of Big Data is here!”  That may be true but what does that mean for Medical Affairs?  As in all of biopharma, MA is comfortable working with data.  So much of our work revolves around discussing data and the implications of data that many people may think that we were already living in the era of Big Data.

But for most MA organizations, the data sets we have focused on are purpose generated – either our own data or data from similarly-scaled studies conducted by others.  Big Data refers to something different.  I like the differentiation that SAS uses when comparing Big Data to the past data sets.  They break it down to four “V”s and a C:

  • Volume: Hugely increased data volume from the past
  • Variety: Since the data is produced in many different ways, it has many different formats and structures
  • Velocity: Both how fast the data is being produced and how fast it must be processed
  • Variability: Inconsistent data flows, with peaks and valleys
  • Complexity: Driving value out of these data sets is highly complex and difficult

This is not your grandfather’s data sets.  What are some examples of Big Data as relevant to biopharma and MA:

  • Electronic Health Records data from a variety of sources
  • Search engine data (see an example of analyzing search data to find safety signals here)
  • Sunshine Act Physician Spend Data (when it becomes available)
  • Social media data
  • Competitors clinical trial data as it is released

Contained within these and many Big Data sources are key tools for MA:

  • Valuable therapeutic information
  • Unique customer insights
  • KOL identification and information
  • Visibility of competitors drug development and support efforts
  • Important drug safety signals

But, none of these benefits can be achieved unless the question is asked and the data is analyzed.  I would suggest that effective MA organizations of the future will need to have the capacity to ask and answer these types of questions.

In order to do so, MA organizations will either need to build or have access to increased levels of biostatistical and epidemiological resources.  And these resources need to have skills directly related to Big Data.  The characteristics that differentiate Big Data from existing data sets also means that many existing biostats and epi staff do not have the expertise or confidence working with these large, external data sets.  MA organizations need to ensure that people with exactly these skills sets are available within their organizations or from outside vendors and that these resources have the capacity to support MA.

Then, MA needs to improve its overall level of confidence defining Big Data questions, conducting Big Data analysis, and discussing the results with others.  Given the difference in the source of this type of data, the way this data is presented and discussed must be different too.  Everyone in MA, but especially the MSLs, must become more comfortable understanding the nuance of this type of data analysis and discussing both the strengths and weaknesses of working with Big Data.

The era of Big Data is here.  MA has a long history of effectively using data and explaining data in support of its organization.  MA leaders must investigate and embrace Big Data to take advantage of all the tools available today.  The questions unasked are always the questions unanswered.

What is your experience with Big Data?  Please leave a comment.

Topic 26: Highlights of Day 3 of the Medical and Scientific Communications 2013 Forum

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The final half day for the MSC meeting had an excellent and well received discussion about MSL metrics.  I also attended an interesting talk on coordinating global publications.  My take on it below

DISCLAIMER:  My focus is on interesting information, I did not try to take verbatim notes and will not try to assign comments to a particular speaker.  Any mistakes are mine alone.

In no particular order, some of things are found interesting included:

–  Metrics

  • Must vary as focus of the organizations varies
    • Plays back to earlier comments about staying focused if you want to see improvement over time
    • Mix of Activity, Value and Compliance measures are needed
    • IIS Metrics
      • Good to track in terms of just a sense of the program
      • NO goals should be put in place
      • Additional metrics discussed
        • Engagement with ACOs or Cancer Networks or other new healthcare entities
        • Congress attendance valued by quality metric of the outputs not the activity
        • Dollars saved by asking MA to assist CD, especially when CD has a bid from a vendor to provide the same service
        • Internal stakeholder feedback
          • Important – best to solicit directly via email/conversation
          • BE CAREFUL – some organizations do not allow feedback from Commercial

–  Reports/Dashboards/Scorecards

  • Need to develop different outputs for different stakeholders
  • What is needed internally at MA is not what you want to focus on with other internal stakeholders
  • Always pair summarized numbers with text explaining value and highlighting accomplishments/learnings

–  MA IT Systems

  • As mentioned earlier, a number of companies seem to be moving toward the Veeva Platform which is built on top of Salesforce.com CRM.
    • Veeva seems to be driven by the commercial side, but it has MA capabilities
    • Some people mentioned that you need to be careful about Veeva training and documentation as it often defaults to commercial language
    • Some organizations use it to track not only KOL interactions but also time spent in the office doing various projects
    • Focus on time tracking seemed to be for internal management not for external publication

–  Global Publication Coordination

  • Increasingly important to have global plan
  • Much easier to manage when Pub Team gets involved earlier in the development cycle
  • MA on Pub Team should work as a facilitator for Pub Team’s interaction with other functions given their central role
  • Press release management globally remains a major challenge
    • General consensus that prior to first presentation at a meeting, press release should be simply binary – met endpoints, did not meet
    • Too much data in press release can tick off journals threatening publication

–  Odds and Ends Ideas

  • Heard from a number of different companies that MSL groups focused on payer support in the US need to be between 6 and 10 in size to cover all the needs – not scientific but an interesting convergence
  • MSLs at clinical study initiation visits:
    • Good idea BUT has GCP implications
    • Need to hammer out how MSLs can fit within CD’s SOPs with ClinOps before engaging
    • May ultimately require update to CD’s SOPs

Obviously, this is merely a few key concepts from the day but it should give you some flavor of the type of discussions and the focus of the meeting.

If you were at the meeting and have other thoughts please leave them in the comments.

Topic 25: Highlights of Day 2 of the Medical and Scientific Communications 2013 Forum

A great second day for the MSC meeting, with a range of interesting topics.  My take below.

DISCLAIMER:  My focus is on interesting information, I did not try to take verbatim notes and will not try to assign comments to a particular speaker.  Any mistakes are mine alone.

In no particular order, some of things are found interesting included:

–  MSL Value Proposition:

  • Questions of value are often linked with a lack of fully understanding what a modern MSL does, vs. MSLs of old
  • Many in group have had good success inviting key stakeholders, up to and including CEO, for ride-alongs with MSL
    • Proven track record at overcoming skeptics about MSL skills and value
    • One key to proving value is remain consistent in priorities to show value over time
      • When priorities are shifting its hard to build up track record
      • Remember that one of the greatest MSL values, relationships, is the least structured and always make that point clear

–  Other non-traditional areas where MSLs can show value:

  • Training CRAs on underlying science before trials
  • Conducting formal evaluations of CME vendors to ensure vendors are providing good value
  • Identifying authors for Pub group

–   Measure what matters to the people that matter

  • Develop measures that highlight accomplishments that only MSLs can achieve
  • Create monthly list of these unique accomplishments to address qualitative questions

–  External Surveys

  • Important to get qualitative measures
  • But expensive and difficult
  • Also, expect lots of push back from people who don’t think they are fair
  • Don’t let the complainers win, the data is critical to effectively target efforts

–  A number of MSL organizations use monthly internal newsletters

  • Highlight key activities and accomplishments
  • Provide some science training
  • Implicitly defines values and culture through examples chosen and emphasis

–  Challenge of “boom bust” in MSL team sizing

  • Number of speakers referred to the challenge of staffing for launch only to see the team significantly reduced 1 to 2 years after launch
  • This is especially challenging outside of the US where country-level resources are very limited
  • Need to consider this issue up-front during initial staffing and make the case for the long term from the start

–  Breakout session about MSL management

  • Almost everyone in group had turnover of less than 10% and most less than 5%
  • Most organizations had two non-managerial  levels of MSL – MSL and Sr. MSL
    • Some organizations had three with an Executive MSL above Sr.
    • Most organizations had at least two managerial levels but the titles varies
      • Some had three
      • Expectations about activity level varied but some examples from different companies:
        • 4 visits per week
        • X number of interactions per week (phone/email/visit)
        • MSLs will be out in the field 3 to 4 days per week
        • Key to expectations is flexibility
          • Some MSLs in small geogs some in large, their expectations should be different
          • Some TAs have large number of meetings, some few, so their expectations should be different

–  Mobile technology

  • IPADS is the de-facto mobile tech of today
  • Currently adjunct devices to laptops, NOT replacements
  • Hard to justify on “cost saving” but easy to justify on WOW factor
  • Be careful of SOPs that are linked into the old way of doing things, may need to be re-written to accommodate the tablet
  • User experience is more important on Ipad than on PCs
    • Users have very low tolerance for clunky Ipad interfaces
    • Some other interesting ideas:
      • KOLs are likely to grab the Ipad so make sure everything you don’t want them to see is locked down
      • Ipad syncing is a manual process and may people may avoid, so build in lock outs to programs to force them to update at least monthly
      • 4 Digit standard Ipad passwords stink – they are breakable in minutes, use a much longer password
      • Use  cloud-based apps like DropBox or Google Drive only after being approved by compliance
      • People want to use their Ipads for personal stuff (photos, music, games) and most companies let them use it for that as well
      • Allow people choice in covers and other accessories since it is very personal
      • Have an accessories swap program to allow people to turn in accessories they no longer want and others can use

–  Odds and Ends Ideas

  • Conduct “Office Hours” during major meetings when top CD resources are available in booth so MSLs can introduce their KOLs
  • Compliance ride alongs – if compliance is unsure of an approach, offer to pilot it with them on a ride along so they can see it in action then make a determination
  • Community MSL group focused on non-HCPs, like Advocacy Group

Obviously, this is merely a few key concepts from the day but it should give you some flavor of the type of discussions and the focus of the meeting.

The meeting remains a very positive experience.  One of the key takeaways from today, however, was the desire of the audience to have more time to interact and learn from each other.  A good problem to have!

Topic 24: Highlights of Day 1 of the Medical and Scientific Communications 2013 Forum

As I mentioned earlier, I am attending the DIA MSC meeting in Pheonix, AZ this week.  The MSC has increased value this year because they have added a track specifically focused on MSLs.  Through the hard work of the MSL Track Chair people Rebecca Vermeulen and Ramineh Zoka, as well as the hard work of all the presenters the MSL Track has had a terrific first day.

DISCLAIMER:  My focus is on interesting information, I did not try to take verbatim notes and will not try to assign comments to a particular speaker.  Any mistakes are mine alone.

In no particular order, some of things are found interesting included:

–  A pill is poison unless the right information is wrapped around it.

–  ACA

  • Because of the passage of the ACA and the Supreme Court upholding the law, Rx spending is expected to increase 4.7% more than is the law had not passed
  • With the ACA’s introduction of roughly 20 million newly insured people in 2014, the US market will become the fastest growing pharmaceutical market in the world

–  Tax Deductibility for Marketing and Sales expenses in Biopharma

  • Some talk about eliminating this to increase tax revenue
  • Proposed 3 times in the last year but killed each time
  • NOT at all clear whether MA would be considered marketing under tax law
  • If passed, likely to see major cuts needed to balance budgets in these areas

–  Sunshine Act

  • Already happening for 16 companies under CIA’s
  • For a taste of the info that will be available, see this link
  • New PhRMA/Coalition formed to educate public about wave of new disclosure information coming called National Dialog for Healthcare Innovation

–  Caronia Ruling (you knew I would have to get something in here about this)

  • No one knows when it will be law of the land but likely 5 to 10 years
  • Old standard of safe – what is on the label
  • New standard will be – information that a reasonable consumer would not find misleading
  • New standard is current FTC standard for all advertisement
  • Data will be king, but not just data submitted to FDA
  • For time being, continue like no change

–  History of MSL Role

  • First MSLs started 40 years ago
  • Up John created role and actually trademarked the name MSL
  • Part of the sales teams – scientific sales

–  MSL Facts of Interest

  • Most MSLs manage between 25 and 49 KOLs
  • 32% of companies surveyed (n~60+) intend to grow MSL team
  • Only 11% intend to shrink MSL teams

–  Value of MSLs by Physicians

  • Surveys showed physicians do NOT value frequency, they value:
    • Accessibility
    • Responsiveness
    • Knowledge
    • Up to date information
    • Do NOT want to meet with MSLs if:
      • Only have old or out of date information
      • Feel they are biased
      • Have nothing new to tell them

–  Diagnostic MSLs

  • Specific MSL group focused on uptake of diagnostics
  • Big challenge – to use a diagnostic, they need the diagnostic platform – often millions of dollars
  • Thus broader array of people involved in decision beyond just HCP, including:
    • Bench Tech
    • Lab Managers
    • Pathologists
    • Administration
    • Opens questions about right regulatory regime for non-HCPs

–  CIA Driven Changes

  • CIAs require standards and documentation
  • Documentation increasingly taking the form of customer relationship management systems specifically for MA
  • Most common system by show of hands in the room: Veeva running on Salesforce.com
  • To be effective, this type of system needs to:
    • Track interactions
    • Manage content
    • Link the two
    • Key pitfalls
      • Privacy, especially for global systems given EU requirements
      • Complexity

Obviously, this is merely a few key concepts from the day but it should give you some flavor of the type of discussions and the focus of the meeting.  Overall I would say the tone was very positive, given the challenges MSLs face in their highly regulated environment.  Everyone at the meeting was confident that MSLs value was high and these challenges could be met.  Look forward to tomorrow.