Medical Affairs 2.0: It’s time to adapt… or become irrelevant

“When you look at the big picture, you realize you either change and adapt or, as a species, you go extinct.”

Kenyan paleontologist and anthropologist Louise Leakey.

The need to adapt and evolve is as imperative for professions as it is for species. Particularly in rapidly changing environments like healthcare, strategies and approaches that were effective a few years ago may be less effective today. In the near future they may not even be viable. Medical Affairs professionals must adapt, re-imagining its strategies and measurements of success, or risk becoming obsolete.  The industry is moving to a new paradigm, Medical Affairs 2.0, where data is driving decisions, making your efforts measurable and empowering you to re-evaluate those efforts on a regular basis.

Medicine is becoming increasingly specialized

Personalized medicine – pharmacogenomics – is driving that change by segmenting markets into ever smaller sections. A recent report forecasts that orphan drugs will grow at 11 percent annually between 2017 and 2022. That’s twice the predicted annual growth rate for the entire prescription drug market. Even cancer, once a monolithic disease, has gained orphan disease status as researchers learn more about its many genetic and epigenetic causes. Autologous cell therapies are further narrowing drug markets by developing therapies based on patients’ own cells. The age of blockbuster drugs is waning and medical communications must evolve to accommodate that reality.  Medical advertising is one example. While advertisements still advise consumers to “Ask your doctor if (this drug) is right for you,” new therapies for serious conditions are becoming less likely to engage in consumer advertising. As medicine becomes more personalized, target markets become smaller and mass marketing declines in value. Realizing this, many drug developers are directing their efforts – and their monies – toward more targeted, direct-to-physician outreach. Medical affairs, therefore, is becoming a strategic asset.

Medical Affairs must rethink its strategies to guide decisions

Often, achieving greater effectiveness requires developing and refining new strategies to reach key opinion leaders, prescribers and purchasers so they are aware of new diagnostic and treatment options and are versed in their scientific benefits.

This is especially true in specialty areas like cardiology and oncology, in which selecting the best medication for a patient can markedly affect clinical outcomes. Communicating safety and efficacy data isn’t enough in this age of value-based medicine. When treating serious, often life-threatening, medical conditions, it’s important that prescribers have the complete picture. Physicians must know what the science says and what key opinion leaders think about specific therapies and be familiar with alternatives to prescribe the therapies likely to produce the best clinical outcomes for their patients.

A strong, effective medical affairs team can help physicians do that by providing accurate, timely information so prescribers needn’t rely on their gut instincts or past prescribing patterns. As healthcare systems – including payers – turn to value-based medicines, medical affairs has the opportunity to guide the inevitable discussions that will weigh initial and holistic costs of new therapeutics against clinical outcomes and quality of life.

Those discussions will occur not just within the offices of health systems and payers, but in conferences and publications throughout the world. Medical affairs professionals can assist those discussions through their choice of journals in which to publish, conferences at which to present and experts with whom to engage.

Look for our next blog, where we will continue to explore how Medical Affairs 2.0 will impact different departments of Medical Affairs in greater detail. In the meantime, follow us on LinkedIn to share your insights and opinions and to suggest topics of interest you’d like us to explore. And, of course, share these posts with your colleagues and collaborators.