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The ‘blueprint’ for MSL success is changing

By Khalil Ahmed


The healthcare industry landscape is changing. 

An era of blockbuster drugs used by the masses is coming to an end; new drugs are being targeted at niche and rare diseases with complex science and high unmet needs, while treatment decisions are made by multiple stakeholders driven by payers’ demands of economic, societal and cost benefits.

Patient-centricity is fast becoming one of the essential considerations for the successful future of new drugs and the growth of pharmaceutical companies.

The Medical Science Liaison (MSL) function is a pivotal role leading the change. In the last few years, MSLs have proven to be valuable and effective resources for successful new drug launches. MSLs are active in the pre-launch phase, promoting disease awareness and engagement with Key Opinion Leaders.

In the commercialisation phase, they deliver training and support to commercial and market access teams. Significant and continued investment should be made in MSL development to ensure they are equipped to succeed in their roles.

In a Syneos Health 2018 Trend Report, 75 industry leaders predicted that ‘the No.1 strategic relationship investment in 2018 will be innovation in how medical teams engage and support both external and internal stakeholders’.

Traditionally, the role of Medical Affairs has been to ‘assess and react,’ which evolved into ‘anticipate and inform’. Now, the goal for the next generation of Medical Affairs is to ‘shape and transform’, with new and broader stakeholder groups wanting in-depth discussions on complex science as well as economic benefits and innovative solutions for their patients.

To enable MSLs to play such a vital role in the shape and transform era, companies need to invest in the development of competencies, such as strategic thinking, business acumen, market access and insightful questioning.

Syneos Health is an industry leader in offering innovative solutions for all sectors within the pharmaceutical industry.

The Next-Gen Medical Affairs platform comprises the Syneos Health MSL Academy and MSL Excellence Framework, including the XCEL- RATE MSL Development Centre, which are designed to help companies transform MSLs to meet the challenges of the future.

Companies invest significant time and resources to improve capability enhancement of their MSLs. They must identify the right talent at the recruitment stage, with desired scientific, technical knowledge and core competencies, in addition to providing ongoing investment in professional development.

Syneos Health offers highly effective and proprietary customisable tools during recruitment and throughout the
MSL journey, such as Med IQ/EQ Assessment and the XCEL-RATE MSL Development Centre, which provide objective assessment and analytical reports of MSL strengths and development needs.

The Syneos Health MSL Medical Excellence Framework provides companies a robust approach towards preparing, planning for and executing excellence in their medical activities, ensuring that MSLs are fully aligned with Strategic Medical Objectives (SMOs) and medical narratives. Key performance indicators are aligned to the framework, and competencies help to consistently deliver vital components of the SMOs.

The MSL Excellence Framework offers ongoing support and feedback for managers to use with their teams and collects evidence to demonstrate value and competency enhancement of their teams.

It also links MSLs’ skills and competency enhancement to their personal and professional development, and makes recommendations for their career pathways – a vital element for talent satisfaction and retention.

Syneos Health’s MSL Academy has developed a comprehensive training curriculum for MSLs, offering ongoing coursework delivered via E-Learning Therapeutic Area Essentials modules, interactive group WebEx sessions and live training sessions. The extensive curriculum and library provide sustained support and development for new and experienced MSLs.

Medical Affairs serves as a core strategic partner for the broader organisation by incorporating medical insights to drive early data generation, develop global strategies and engage the external community through meaningful scientific exchange.

There is no doubt that achieving Medical Affairs Excellence requires best-in-class global/regional synergies between strategies, capabilities, processes and metrics to augment the sustainability of MSL teams.

Are you investing to build sustainable capabilities of NEXT-GEN MSLs in the healthcare industry?

The EU MSL Academy programme and MSL Excellence Framework will go live in Q1 2020. Contact us today ( to learn more and reserve a place for your MSLs.

Khalil Ahmed is Vice President of Medical Affairs, Europe at Syneos Health

In association with


14th October 2019

From: Marketing


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