Research into MSL Operations: The Global Expansion of Medical Science Liaisons
Significant changes to medical science liaisons’ roles and expectations in the past 15 years have underscored the value MSLs bring to their organizations. MSLs not only provide access to highly influential physicians and medical researchers, but they also bring exposure to key healthcare decision-making bodies, such as payers. Our latest research into MSL operations found that the payers’ role in healthcare decisions is one factor fueling MSLs’ global expansion.
Payers’ increasing impact on global healthcare has altered the approach drug and device companies typically take to target physicians as the primary drivers behind healthcare decisions. Until recently, the conventional definition for a KOL was a physician. But payer decisions have far-reaching influence on patient care beyond even some of the most influential KOLs.MSLs have begun to expand beyond the United States’ borders into Europe and Asia, as well as gradually into Latin America. Delineating MSLs’ roles and responsibilities has been largely the discretion of their companies. In Europe, MSLs abide by strict codes of conduct that either the industry or individual countries have implemented. But unlike the U.S., there are no defined guidances from European governments that outline appropriate interactions between life sciences companies and physicians. Without clarity on the MSL role, companies will continue to expand into new countries lacking a strong understanding of what non-promotional activities liaisons can engage in with key opinion leaders (KOLs).
By no means will MSLs cut their ties with physicians. The growing focus on payer relationships, however, has uniquely influenced the MSL role not only in more established areas where liaisons have thrived, such as the United States, but around the world as well. Because payers, patients and government organizations will increasingly steer treatment decisions, their focus will be on gathering outcomes data and cost-effective health economics research. MSLs — and their health outcomes liaison (HOL) counterparts — will play a key role in providing these data to patients, payers and government agencies.