Peak professional bodies release best practice recommendations for MSLs

Health Industry Hub | July 14, 2021 |
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Medical: The role of medical science liaisons (MSLs) has evolved over the past decade. Advances in medical science ranging from immunotherapy to targeted therapies have led to the development of more personalised treatments with increased complexity.

The advanced and complex nature of these therapies has created a need for a highly specialised, scientific exchange of information between pharmaceutical companies and healthcare professionals.

The executive committees of four peak body organisations representing Medical Affairs’ members – the Australian Pharmaceutical Medical and Scientific Professionals Association (APPA), the International Federation of Associations of Pharmaceutical Physicians and Pharmaceutical Medicine (IFAPP), the Medical Affairs Professional Society (MAPS) and the Medical Science Liaison Society (MSLS) – launched an “unbiased, commercial-free” position statement on key practices of MSLs.

The authors note “More recent times has seen an increased need for MSLs but an accompanying reduction in sales and marketing personnel. Consequently, there has been an emergence of hybrid roles that combine medical affairs and sales roles and consequently ‘muddy the waters’ when it comes to separating scientific and commercial activities. A lack of a global perspective on the role of the MSL, combined with limited published literature by experts in Medical Affairs, as well as white papers developed by health consulting firms with a commercial interest, mean that there is no formal framework defining the roles and responsibilities of an MSL.

“A key differentiator between MSLs and sales representatives, both customer-facing roles, is that MSLs are only permitted to interact with external experts in a non-promotional context. This means that MSL activities should not be driven by prescription or sales targets, which represent benchmark metrics for sales representatives, but rather by indicators that demonstrate the need for scientific engagement as well as dissemination of data.”

A recent study evaluated the metrics applied to MSL roles in determining their value. “Number of HCP interactions was the single-most collected metric surveyed (93%) and was associated with a moderate value in terms of demonstrating the value of the role. An alternate metric that may deserve further application for assessing scientific engagement is ‘length of customer interaction’. This measure was felt to show the contribution of the MSL well. Interestingly, while not all frequently collected, all of the metrics related to insight gathering were seen as excellent for demonstrating the value of the MSL. This is perhaps because insight gathering reflects both a quality of relationship with external stakeholders and tangible value to internal stakeholders.”

The position statement adds “At times, these two functions have become blurred. MSLs should not be perceived as product advocates but rather as scientific experts in their therapeutic field. Indeed, MSLs are a valuable internal resource for scientific training of sales and marketing teams, but appropriate steps need to be undertaken to ensure appropriate separation between commercial and Medical Affairs departments so as to avoid influence or the appearance of influence across the groups.”

Access Promoting Best Practices for Medical Science Liaisons Position Statement from the APPA, IFAPP, MAPS and MSLS here.

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