What You Need to Know About Medical Affairs Physicians

The Medical Affairs Role: All You Need to Know

In this article, you will read about the professional requirements of a doctor working in the Medical Affairs department of a pharmaceutical company. You will also find details of the daily routine of a Medical Affairs physician. This article can help you decide whether or not you are suitable for a Medical Affairs role in a pharmaceutical company.

Departmentation of Physician Jobs in a Pharma Company

In most pharma companies that are into the business of selling drugs, there is a clear differentiation of the job of MBBS/MD physicians into two main domains, regulatory affairs, and medical affairs.

  • The regulatory affairs physician is directly responsible for all technical issues pertaining to the regulator and government. Their core responsibilities are dealing with new product approval and complying with regulatory rules for existing products which often continue for many years. Since pharma companies sell their products across international borders, each product has to be individually registered with each country's regulator. Thus, the regulatory affairs physician is the nodal point of information exchange between the company and the regulators.

  • The medical affairs physician is directly responsible for all issues pertaining to the market, customers, and consumers. Pharma products work in a competitive business environment and have to meet the expectations of the prescriber as well as the consumer. Prescriber refers to the clinician who writes the prescription and the consumer refers to the patient who takes the drug. The core responsibility of the medical affairs physician is to ensure that the right information reaches the prescriber and the patients through the company's medical representatives, promotional materials, pack inserts, and patient information leaflets. Additional responsibilities of the medical affairs physician are to understand the needs of the product's prescribers and consumers and ensure that the policymakers of the company understand these requirements. Thus, the medical affairs physician is the nodal point of information exchange between the company and its customers.

Medical Affairs - A Medical Marketing  (Non-Sales) Role

Pharma companies sell drugs in the form of commercial products. The medical affairs physician works with the marketing and sales teams of the pharma company for the commercial and scientific success of the product.

Medical affairs
Image Credit: Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

But, the medical affairs physician doesn't have any direct sales targets, and he/she is not a glorified sales representative. The goals of the medical affairs physician are just not limited to the commercial/financial success of the product. The responsibility of the medical affairs physician is much more than just helping the marketing and sales teams in crunching their targeted market shares and sales figures.

Medical Affairs as the Medical Advisor

The medical affairs physician is the chief medical advisor for the company as well as the chief scientific officer. The medical affairs physician is the knowledge leader for the company, prescribers as well as the patients. All of these look up to the medical affairs physician for deriving the right knowledge about the product.

The medical affairs physician is supposed to be the best expert in therapy areas in which the company operates and solves everyone's queries and guides people through providing them helpful information. The physician should not only know the medical information about the own company's products but also the competitor products in the respective therapy area. For example, if the own company is selling insulin-based products for diabetics, the physician should be a knowledgeable leader not only in the insulin segment but also in oral hypoglycemic drugs as well as the experimental therapies. The physician should be well aware of the history of the development of their product and should be able to foresee the near and long-term future of their products.

Image by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pixabay

Medical Affairs - A Repository of Knowledge

Though the clinician is the best judge for the individual patient's treatment decisions, the medical affairs physician should be well equipped with the information to deal with every possible medical query that the treating physician seeks about the usage or nonusage of the product; which a medical representative can never match up.

The medical affairs physician serves as a repository of the knowledge related to not only the benefits of the product but also the risks involved. Sometimes, "when and where not to use a drug" may be more important than the details of the usage of the product so as to safeguard the value of the brand name. The medical affairs physician thus serves as the trustee for both the company's as well as the patient/consumer's interest.

The Typical Workday of a Medical Affairs Physician

A medical affairs physician has to conduct multiple activities as a part of his job. Most of the time, the department is organized in the manner that it is headed by the senior-most physicians who have the final say from the department and the junior ones being in charge of specific products.

For each product, there is a set of ongoing activities for which the physician in charge has to coordinate with sales, marketing, training, and legal compliance departments. Their common day to day activities are:
  1. Conducting technical training for newly hired sales representatives, and the preparation and updating of training materials for new hires.  
  2. Preparation of presentations for CME sessions, workshops, and similar medico-marketing activities to be conducted by speakers representing the company.
  3. Conduct planned medico-marketing sessions like CME sessions, workshops, etc as a speaker/representative from the company.
  4. Participation in scientific conferences, industry meetings related to the product.
  5. Meetings with Key Opinion Leaders, who are the highly respected doctors related to the specialty of the products with the purpose of building rapport, understanding their opinions about the product and its competitors, and understanding their needs.
  6. Replying to queries received from clinicians and products within the expected time frame and to the best of his/her knowledge.
  7. Working with the marketing team in the development of the marketing strategy.
  8. Developing the library/repository of medical knowledge related to the product including all the pre-clinical, clinical, and experimental studies.
  9. Approving the medical communication used in promotional material for accuracy and to ensure that only right and complete information is transmitted.
  10. Coordinating with regulatory affairs about the pharmaco-vigilance aspects.
These days most of their work is conducted through the use of computers, email, and projection technology. The medical affairs physician has to be well versed in their use.

Desired Attributes in a Medical Affairs Physician

The physician is expected to be a good trainer, meticulous knowledge leader, a good team worker, and a presenter/representative of the company at multiple external as well as internal scientific forums and finally somebody who has to balance science with business skills.

Did you get a pulse of the work profile of a medical affairs physician? Feel free to share your views.

Views expressed are personal

Last Updated On 08/22/2019 07:30 PM

Author Profile

Dr. Naval Asija is a New Delhi-based non-clinical doctor having health administration postgraduate training. Since 2018, he has been writing/blogging full-time on health issues. In the past, he has worked for a decade in healthcare, in different organizations, namely Innodata India Pvt. Ltd., Win-Medicare Pvt. Ltd., National Institute of Health and Family Welfare, Integrated Disease Surveillance Project, and the National Polio Surveillance Project.
The author can be contacted through https://www.linkedin.com/in/navalasija/
journey of a non clinical doctor



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