Words by Isabel O’Brien
Measuring the impact of medical affairs is less straightforward than it is for R&D or commercial, but in order to track the department’s contribution, we must establish success metrics. It is time for MA to step up and assert their value proposition to themselves, to other departments, and to the c-suite.
When an actor takes to the stage, a whole team behind the scenes has made that entrance possible. If we look at commercial as the thespians of the pharmaceutical industry, tasked with engaging audiences with the final product, we must align medical affairs with the backstage crew, equally as important, but their performance less visible.
“A department like MA doesn’t have easy metrics like approvals or regulatory approvals, as our development colleagues do, or increase in revenue or market share, as our marketing colleagues do, so we need to think harder than any other department in pharma about the qualitative impact of all we do,” says Charlotte Kremer, EVP, Head of Medical Affairs, Astellas, at eyeforpharma Barcelona virtual 2020.
To do this, it is important to differentiate between metrics that track quantitative and qualitative actions. For example, KPIs, such as the number of thought leader engagements, publications, panels, presentations, and MSL visits, are regularly tracked by organisations, but these are quantitative indicators. They track the execution of their role, rather than their impact.
To truly ascertain the qualitative value of MA, we must unpick the impact of one of their key responsibilities as insight gatherers and disseminators, relevant in both the pre and post-launch stages: “Insights are an important value that the medical team brings to the table, not only in the early phases of preparing for launch, but also after that,” says Ana Kostova, General Manager, Europe, Allergan Aesthetics, AbbVie, at eyeforpharma.
In the same talk, Sandra Silvestri, SVP, Global Head of Medical General Medicine Business Unit, Sanofi, agrees: “Generating insights is one of the critical added values that field-based medical, and the overall medical function, brings to a company.”
The impact of an insight can be far-reaching and take on several faces: “Did it drive reimbursement for our drugs? Did it drive and change the treatment guidelines? Did it help with understanding after the symposium, of the current landscape of the disease and products that can be used to treat the indication?” challenges Kremer. It is not just a matter of playing a part in the performance, but embellishing it in a way the actors cannot.
Whilst MA can achieve consensus as to what their role entails, with gathering insights shining as a cornerstone of their value proposition, it is key to develop a structure by which this can be measured and communicated: “We must create a strategy together with the diversity of MA colleagues, to get one integrated MA strategy, and execute that,” says Kremer.
Once MA have evidence of their qualitative impact, they can present this to the senior figures in the c-suite: “In our communication with the c-suite, it will be important to speak in a language that has business acumen, in a language that is based and founded in strategy,” says Kremer.
Flexing their strategic muscle in this way will align MA with commercial in the acknowledgement received from company leaders, the show’s investors, rewarding them in the long-term with far more than a cursory acknowledgement from the main cast, as their sole source of recognition.
“If you say medical creates exchanges and communicates value, that’s correct. If you say marketing creates exchanges and communicates value, this is also correct. The how and the accountability may be different, but with the intent, with what we’re doing or trying to deliver in a modern pharma world; it is exactly the same,” says Heather Moses, Head of Medical Affairs UK, Global Marketing Leader, Roche, at eyeforpharma.
Commercial and MA must always be united in this common goal, working in harmony to deliver a showstopping performance, but they must also have clearly defined, separate metrics to measure their personal successes.
“It’s up to MA leaders to realise this potential and to drive value, and ultimately that will ensure the safe and appropriate use of our medication, which will drive value for patients,” concludes Kremer.
The success of a play requires mutual buy-in from those in front of and behind the curtain, and if a pharma company wants to create a synergy, consistently producing blockbuster drugs that have a transformative effect on the space, and most importantly on patients, they must measure and appreciate the value of all.