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Bringing science to life

Medical communications in a new decade

An electrical chargeThe growing importance of medical communications and its strategic role is a trend set to continue, and a major influence in this is the radical shift ongoing in pharma, sometimes described as the tipping point of change.

In such an environment, medical communications agencies need to understand how to add value to the industry to help achieve meaningful and credible clinical positioning founded on transparency. I believe the science must be valued at the heart of customer interactions, founded on a strong evidence base, with a desire to engage with customers in different ways.

Evidence-based decision-making may be driven by individual experts and medical societies but, at the same time, expansion of the stakeholder base will influence treatment decisions, driving a need for educational support not just for healthcare professionals but also for patients.

Access to information via the internet and social media means we have a patient base that is more articulate and well-informed than ever, resulting in a need for evidence to be interpreted and communicated in ways that remain meaningful and in context for patients and carers.

We are seeing an escalation in the number of educational programmes aimed at disease prevention and at improving compliance and adherence; and there is a growing need for validated decision-making tools to support personalised healthcare, optimising both the clinical and economic value of a therapy.

In addition, we are likely to see the development of integrated payer programmes, reflecting increasing payer power and the need for payer insight and education, and, given their growing role in patient management, increased emphasis on educational initiatives targeted towards both nurses and pharmacists.

Transparency and reputation have never been more important in medical communications, and the involvement of medical communications agencies can drive integrity and openness through improved practice and education. The publication last year of the updated Good Publication Practice guidelines (GPP2) set out high expectations for industry-sponsored publications and it will not be long before failure to comply with GPP2 will result in an assumption of unethical practice.

The regulatory environment is correct in maintaining that scientific publications should remain free from marketing influence and, in practice, this is likely to lead to wider but increasingly separate relationships with external experts. Investigators working on clinical trial programmes will author scientific publications and work with clinical or medical departments, while a separate group of experts will be engaged by marketing departments at company-sponsored meetings and elsewhere, to explain the relevance of the data in clinical practice.

Active global collaboration will lead pharma companies to expand their network of external experts beyond study investigators, and spend time and energy working with a wider group of professionals whose endorsement will be influential at global, regional and local levels, and who will transfer customer insight and opinion from local to global level.

To continue to thrive, medical communications agencies need to adapt to and ultimately champion these changes.

It is not sufficient simply to provide a medical writing service without the scientific thinking and strategy to support it. Agencies that see the value of this as intellectual property, nurturing in-house expertise to provide clients with scientific excellence, strategic insight and exceptional delivery, will provide maximum benefit to clients and improvements to healthcare by bringing the science to life.

Amanda Smith
The Author
Amanda Smith Global Head, Caudex Medical
Email her at:

This article was first published in PME May/June 2010 as part of the Thought Leader series.

To comment on this article, email


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9th June 2010


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