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Smart Thinking blog

Insights and expert advice on the key issues facing today’s pharma marketer

Praising the medical team for an excellent launch

Finding great medics to work on a launch team is a tough challenge, but definitely worth the effort

This time, I’d like to recognise a group of wonderful people who have become more and more important in guiding and delivering a successful launch. It’s the medical team!

In recent years, the number and range of medical roles has increased significantly when other more traditional sales or commercial roles have been in decline. There are now medical roles covering medical affairs, medical information, scientific communications, R&D, clinical trials, compliance, scientific advice, medical science liaison and a number of new hybrid roles to manage relationships with thought leaders, patient groups, national payer and guideline bodies, and
to support large multichannel engagement campaign content.

And in the context of launch, the medical team are often some of the first roles in place to shape early new product planning at a global or local level. In my experience of working as part of a launch team, I’ve been guided and inspired by my medical colleagues who are able to build strong relationships with scientific/clinical thought leaders, analyse and interpret complex clinical trial results and publications, and operate as a true strategic partner for key decisions relating to the target patient, differentiation and to explain how physicians think, feel and behave in a particular therapy area.

Medical roles have evolved light years away from a more passive, signatory function to ensure compliance with industry codes of practice. Finding great medics to work on a launch team is a tough challenge. It’s a big jump for a physician to move from clinical practice into the pharma industry and there is often a lack of clear role descriptions, defined competencies, onboarding and training in the many organisational processes relating to launch.

Some medics struggle with the move to a corporate environment with a whole host of new processes – internal communication, reporting, financial, planning, compliance, management review, readiness, cross-functional brand team – that are involved in a pharma/ biotech launch. Some industry medics can be left bewildered, unsupported and unhappy without the right support, guidance and encouragement from their team leaders.

When building a launch team, it’s so important to define the key roles needed, their technical skills, as well as the softer skills needed, and to consider the personalities and fit of the individuals. When forming a launch team, I like to take the team away for a day or so and invest time in some team building, personality profiling and then to map out the team’s vision for success for the launch and ways of working.

It’s so important that the medical roles are clearly defined at each phase of the launch and that the medics and the rest of the cross-functional brand team are all on the same page. Otherwise this can lead to disconnects, missed deadlines, grumpiness, stress and worse within a launch team. A few stories and anecdotes come to mind as I write this...

When planning a global launch, I’ve seen some great industry practice from the medical leadership in clearly defining the structure and roles of the medical function at a global and local level. This may vary depending on the company culture and processes, disease area/speciality and launch archetype – a rare disease medical organisation will look very different from one in vaccines or cardiology. Other examples of industry medical excellence to support launch include:

  • Creating medical competency frameworks for different medical roles and levels of seniority, with specific reference to launch processes and tools/resources for core medical activities
  • Defining the softer and leadership skills needed for key medical roles and providing these roles with development tools, training and coaching by senior medics with practical launch experience
  • Creating training programmes to support medics with their capabilities in launch planning, strategy, creating a winning medical affairs launch plan, project management and reporting, working with agencies, innovation, multichannel engagement and industry trends in technology, market access, evidence generation and even AI, data and analytics
  • Setting up processes for medical teams across brands and launches, to share internal best practices and leverage external industry best practice.

Finding a true medical launch leader can have an enormous impact on the planning and ways of working of a launch team, as well as creating strong relationships with external experts and thought leaders to shape the launch strategy and investment in major programmes of evidence generation.

The best medics I remember from launch teams in recent years all have a strong focus on the launch team (vs the medical function), the treating physician and the target patient, and a sense of positivity and resilience even in the face of change or setbacks in the launch.

They are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and help out and can frequently be found right by the side of their commercial colleagues, a true leader in the launch team. Thank you, magnificent medical team!

Stephanie Hall is MD of the award-winning brand planning healthcare consultancy Uptake Strategies

2nd November 2020

From: Marketing

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