What is Medical Affairs?

Author: Dr. Sujay Patil,

Assistant Manager, Medical Services, Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Ltd, Mumbai

Oh!!! Medical affairs – have you heard of it? I guess – some might say yes and some no. Medical Affairs function serves as the bridge between the pharmaceutical industry and its stakeholders via the medical community and is uniquely tasked with managing external relationships with the scientific community as well as with patient groups, regulatory authorities and beyond. It’s a booming field in pharma industry with corporate culture overall.

Currently, most youngsters are more fascinated to be a part of medical affairs teams. Why is it so? What allures everyone to this field? Is the type or nature of work? Knowledge? Glorified environment? Many professionals with scientific background may have a different kind of perception pertaining to this lionized field and have already made up their minds to showcase their talent in medical affairs.

Earlier many companies chose to focus on R&D resources on developing new products and moved post-launch activities, such as finding new indications for existing drugs, towardsmedical-affairs teams.Medical affairs is basically involved with post marketing activities. With pressure from regulatory authorities for post marketing activities, medical affairs grew as a sector. Medical Affairs plays a decisive function in any pharmaceutical company and there a variety of roles and progression pathways to build your career.

Basically, medical affairs was earlier considered just as a support function, but now it is expanding and being explored to new levels. Fast forward and medical affairs now encompasses strategy, safety, communications, post-launch trials, field teams and much more – a sort of command central of pharma . Medical affairs professionals are basically involved in training of internal and external stakeholders, helping out with scientific inputs for marketing team followed up by approval of same (LBLs, visual aids, booklets), scientific support to business management team in evaluation of new products, providing scientific solutions pertaining to Key Opinion Leaders (KOL’s), generating more scientific evidence for launched molecules with help of phase 4 studies, regulatory support, conductance and monitoring of scientific advocacy meetings (ad boards, CME’s RTMs) for KOL engagement, preparing responses in form of scientific evidence to queries raised by internal or external stakeholders,leveragingstrategic inputs with expert advice, field work for understanding physician insight on the molecule or therapeutic area, support to pharmacovigilance team, scientific write up for medical journals and attending various scientific conferences pertaining to your therapy area.

Medical Affairs teams are the medical face of the company. Medical affairs professional (MAP) is a very important source for health care professionals to gain unbiased and trusted scientific information. A MAP can bring critical information back in-house andutilization of these insights from physician interactions can be done to ensure brand strategy maximizing the medical benefits for patients and physicians.

They are considered experts to their areas of work and constantly needs to be updated on the therapeutic area involved. It is essential to have a good ability to interpret scientific information in both written and verbal forms and be able to communicate this to customers at all levels.

Across the industry, there is a growing recognition that medical affairs departments can also create value by more effectively addressing customer needs throughout the product life cycle. Given the non-promotional nature of medical affairs’ work, it is not easy for the department to demonstrate its value to the company.

Medical-Affairs function to create significantly greater value for their companies, industry and society need to do the following

  1. Enhance patient access to and best use of optimal medical treatment by clearly demonstrating value to practitioners and payer’s throughout the lifecycle of each product.

  2. Embrace patient-centric healthcare by engaging and partnering with a broader range of healthcare stakeholders to more fully understand the different needs of patients and to be able to provide tangible value to patients.

  3. Facilitate coordination and integration of different medical data and types of knowledge in the company and achieve external recognition for providing credible and unbiased medical information.

  4. Acquire and develop the talent to cultivate and build a strong, multi-faceted Medical Affairs organization that encompasses the new set of competencies required to navigate the future healthcare landscape across the globe.

  5. Enhance patient access to and best use of optimal medical treatment by clearly demonstrating value to practitioners and payer’s throughout the lifecycle of each product.

  6. Strengthen understanding of local medical practices and patient needs and derive relevant insights from it.

  7. Develop clear processes and systems to collect, collate and synthesize insights from different stakeholders and leverage these insights by collaborating with R&D and commercial functions

Strong relationships with communities and academic physicians are often the aim of the medical affairs team because it allows information to flow freely between the medical community and the organization.

In medical affairs, person may start his role as medical advisor (MA) which is more of head office based job or as a regional medical advisor (RMA) involving more of a field work. Whatever opportunity you get, grab it with both hands and deliver the best you can. An MAP is acting like an outcome based model shaping the way business needs to be done.


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