Words by Louise Rogers.
The co-ordinated union of medical affairs and marketing has been in the pipeline ever since the changing regulatory landscape mandated parity between education and commercialism. However, walking hand-in-hand has proven to be more than a leisurely stroll in the park and in some companies the two divisions continue to have a relationship status of: it’s complicated. Why is it that pharma fails to execute an effective strategy in aligning the two, hindering the delivery of a single synchronised brand vision?
“Regulatory compliance mandates the existence of a firewall between medical affairs and marketing”
“The main issue leading to the lack of alignment between MA and marketing is when the role of MA is poorly defined and understood”, explains Gail Cawkwell, Senior VP, MA, Intercept Pharmaceuticals and Executive Leader Committee Member, MAPS. “In these situations, the rest of the organisation (marketing in particular), doesn’t have a clear vision of what the department does and the value it brings, which can result in a lack of true belief among leadership.” Regulatory compliance mandates the existence of a firewall between MA and marketing, but has this been built at the price of stonewalled communication between the two? With no rigid requirements to dictate how a MA department should look or operate, the ability of marketing to grasp the department’s role becomes even more compromised.
The first step, therefore, in initiating the foundations of a successful collaboration is to ensure the role of MA is well-articulated. “In my opinion, there are three core aspects to MA”, voices Cawkwell. “One, have a deep understanding of the practice of medicine and medical customers; two, generate the evidence needed by customers to make good decisions about the use of a medicine for patients; and three, communicate that evidence effectively to diverse audiences, both inside and outside the company.
Shared engagement will develop a brand strategy and not a commercial or medical one.” Communicating such a vision to marketing will highlight the mutual benefits of a MA–marketing partnership.
Today’s hypercompetitive market, which is becoming increasingly crowded with generics, calls for marketers to bring more to the field than their traditional A game and provide a competitive edge for the company edge over their opposition. MA can help here. “Some years ago, we might have thought that scientific expertise was reserved for the medical teams, while innovation belonged to the marketing departments”, explains Eduardo Elorz, Immuno-Oncology Franchise Marketing Lead, Bristol-Myers Squibb. “Capabilities do not belong to teams anymore. To deliver an effective value proposition, marketing need to utilise MA’s scientific expertise and their capabilities related to customer focus, innovation, business acumen, and environmental understanding.” That said, it’s a two-way street and equally “MA should demand strong scientific expertise, competitive awareness, and local regulations expertise from their marketing teams.”
“To deliver an effective value proposition, marketing need to utilise MA’s scientific expertise”
The transition from a product-focussed world to one where the customer is at the centre marks a distinct epoch in pharma’s life. The union of MA and marketing is perfectly placed to achieve and manage this. With the dawn of a new era comes a moment for companies to create and implement strategies to ensure they accelerate ahead of others. “It’s a great opportunity for cross-collaboration at a much earlier stage so that medicines have a clear and meaningful value proposition at approval, which is critically important for a successful launch”, adds Cawkwell.
Many a discussion has revolved around why MA is fundamental in providing value and connecting the science and business. However, moving forward, pharma need to cross into uncharted territory and council a relationship between the two that has the potential to truly thrive.