Dear Colleagues!  This is Asrar Qureshi’s Blog Post #874 for Pharma Veterans. Pharma Veterans aims to share knowledge and wisdom from Veterans for the benefit of Community at large. Pharma Veterans Blog is published by Asrar Qureshi on WordPress, the top blog site. Please email to for publishing your contributions here.

Credit: Olia Danilevich

I had mentioned in my last post a recent article by McKinsey, published in October 2023. The link appears at the end.

The article develops a vision for Medical Affairs till 2023 and sets five priorities for greater patient impact. I shall quote those points from the article which are more relevant to our scenario.

It is known that innovation in digital technology and biological sciences has been exploding at an exponential rate, and that both fields are integrating well to deliver unprecedented results. One of the greatest example is the pace with which the pharma industry responded to COVID19 with the quick development of mRNA vaccine. Biotech is among the hottest portfolios and the investment has touched all time high – nearly $50 billion.

The clinicians have greater access to more diagnostic facilities as well as more treatment options, including but not limited to gene therapy, stem-cell therapy, 3-D printed tissues and so on. With the older generation of healthcare professionals fading out, the average age of HCPs is younger and more comfortable with technology thereby leading to early acceptance and quicker integration. We see a glimpse of it in the ever-greater number of physicians offering online consultations. Though we lag behind by a wide margin, but the changes shall influence everyone all the same.

R&D and Medical Affairs, along with Commercial shall have to work in very close coordination to translate the technological and biological developments into commercial successes.

McKinsey has been working on this subject for several years. In 2018, they laid out four core deliverables for Medical Affairs: one, develop ways to expedite generation of real-world evidence; two, accelerate access and healthcare delivery to patients; three, upgrade medical decision making across all physicians and patients; four, become the third pillar of the organization along with R&D and Commercial to provide strategic direction to the organization.

In the current article, McKinsey is setting five priorities which we shall discuss here briefly.

Boost Medical Affairs leadership to achieve next-level patient impact

[Quote] Successful medical affairs teams usually have leaders who embrace mindsets and leadership practices that raise organizational performance and impact. They bring the best of medical affairs expertise to the company to improve patient outcomes. Medical affairs teams will likely look significantly different in 2030, with broader skill sets supplementing existing clinical expertise. Analytics and digital and data talent will need to be actively cultivated by hiring different types of profiles, rotating talent to and from other functions, investing in competency-building programs, and establishing diverse medical teams with various areas of expertise within them. [Unquote]

Integrate end-to-end data and analytics

[Quote] The amount of healthcare data available is estimated to have reached 2 zettabytes, or 2 trillion gigabytes, in 2022. This explosion in data provides a unique opportunity for better medical affairs decision making… The fast-evolving landscape of data, analytics, and AI is already revolutionizing the way medical affairs operates. Looking forward, analytics can be integrated into the daily decisions of everyone in medical affairs to generate and test hypotheses, inform prioritization, and rapidly measure impact… Medical affairs can focus on a data infrastructure that allows timely access to the right data by the right user for each use case. Significant change management will be needed to build a culture of data-driven decision making within medical affairs. [Unquote]

Differentiate medical strategies

[Quote] Medical affairs plays a critical role in defining successful asset, franchise, and launch strategies. However, in many pharma companies, medical strategies and plans tend to repeat the previous year’s strategic objectives and tactics rather than set continuously more ambitious priorities; the strategy-setting process of the future will likely be substantially more cross-functional and better integrated across the three pillars… At the brand level, medical affairs strategy setting has become increasingly siloed, driving companies to revisit the collaboration model across medical, R&D, and commercial… Medical affairs can up its game in defining strategies that will truly impact patient outcomes at scale over the next three to five years. [Unquote]

Align evidence generation with stakeholder needs

[Quote] Advanced techniques for generating evidence have increased exponentially in recent years. In the future, pharma companies will likely use AI and RWE analytics more holistically and with greater sophistication and agility, unlocking billions in value across their portfolio… Only 20 percent of leading pharmaceutical companies develop a truly cross-functional, integrated evidence generation plan across the life cycle of a product… Looking forward, medical affairs can lead an integrated process that uses data and insights to identify the evidence needs of patients, healthcare providers, payers, regulators, and other stakeholders and select the best evidence tool to deliver them. [Unquote]

Orchestrate medical engagement

[Quote] By 2030, medical affairs will dramatically broaden the stakeholders it engages with, moving beyond key opinion leaders to scientific exchange with community physicians, payers, and other value-based decision makers and more in coordination with other external-facing teams. Digital engagement will be the only scalable medical affairs solution to measurably reduce suboptimal care delivery across large patient populations. An unpublished 2022 McKinsey survey of US physicians found that more than a quarter of them want less face-to-face and more digital pharma engagement over the next few years. Sixty percent of respondents said the integration of pharma company interactions across channels was crucial to their experience. In the past few years, most medical affairs teams have begun building new digital channels, content formats, and approaches for tailoring the engagement to various HCP segments; however, it appears no organization is delivering the envisioned orchestration of channels for an integrated experience. [Unquote]

Sum Up

I have quoted very briefly out of a very detailed report. Where is our pharma industry vis-à-vis these developments? Quite far, I can say safely. However, we can join the bandwagon by taking three steps.

  1. Reorganize Medical Affairs department if it already exists; give them new targets and ask them to present strategies and plans to achieve these targets.
  2. Invest in technology to use data being generated every day; develop analytical models to understand trends better to make more effective commercial strategies.
  3. Generate new digital content in new ways to engage with customers more closely.

Pharma industry is in desperate need of changing its business model; Medical Affairs can lead the change and bring promising results.



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