How to... Make an MSL stand out in healthcare systems
Anecdotal reports suggest doctors see medical science liaisons and sales representatives as one and the same, when in fact the differences couldn’t be starker. So what are the tricks to ensure MSLs stand out?
MSLs have a science background and while they talk to doctors and establish rapport – sometimes even accompanying representatives on visits – their function is not to sell. They also tend to be more reactive when picking up queries from customers or the company’s own sales force. MSLs should operate in the arena of off-licence information on request and not cross over into on-licence area support.
MSLs should provide an informed, tailored and discussion-led approach to customers’ needs, focusing on comparative efficacy, cost-effectiveness or patient pathways. If prescribing behaviour is discussed this should be done from the perspective of understanding the HCP’s decision process and experience.
Provide a 360 degree view of medicines
The more specialised skills of an MSL mean therapeutic discussions with HCPs should be at a peer-to-peer level, focused on education and information, identifying appropriate patient populations and ensuring the product is used as intended. As such, MSLs should prepare for all meetings by understanding the HCP and all data around a disease state – and be able to talk about all medicines not just those of their company.
Clearly differentiate from a representative
An MSL’s responsibilities are scientific, and this should be made clear at the start of the meeting. They should also give a clear outline of their role and reporting lines, as well as set out the purpose of the discussion at the outset.
What is an MSL?
Medical science liaisons have advanced scientific training and academic credentials in the life sciences, and tend to concentrate on a specific therapeutic area. MSLs work throughout a product’s lifecycle to ensure medicines are used effectively, and serve as a resource within the medical community. They also establish and maintain peer-to-peer relationships with doctors and key opinion leaders. Over the past few years the role has grown significantly, and studies suggest the number of MSL roles at the top 10 pharma companies in the USA have grown by an average of 76% since 2005.
Source: Medical Science Liaison Society
Thank you to our contributors: Jane Blockley, senior regional medical liaison, Celgene UK/Ireland; Simon Harris, medical science liaison, Bayer; Jim McNulty, head of MSL, general medicine, Boehringer Ingelheim.
The article was published in the April issue of PharmaTimes Magazine. You can read the full magazine here.