Significant discussion and several recent publications have focused on how the Medical Science Liaison (MSL) role is evolving and on the types of challenges MSLs now face. These realities, unfortunately, aren’t going away anytime soon. However, little has been written about what all of these changes mean for effective MSL performance. The MSL role is different today, so what should MSLs do differently to succeed? To provide meaningful answers to this critical question, the Medical Science Liaison Society launched a major, first-of-its-kind, global, quantitative survey in 2015. Our goal with the survey and this report is to provide a clearer understanding of the specific skills and knowledge bases that are most critical to MSL success in today’s environment.
Medical Science Liaisons face a number of challenges that continue to reshape the MSL role, but perhaps the most urgent involves pharmaceutical companies’ most critical asset: Thought Leaders or Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs). Seventy-two percent of MSLs and MSL managers expect the number of MSLs to increase globally by 20 percent in just the next one to two years (Figure 1).
However, demand may be outstripping supply. For example, from 2011 to 2012, the number of oncologists in the US grew by just 5 percent (Figure 2).
MSLs are becoming increasingly concerned about access to Thought Leaders or Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs). Data from another recent global survey conducted by the Medical Science Liaison Society underscores this challenge. The results of the survey concluded that 62 percent of MSLs and MSL managers report that KOLs are becoming less accessible (Figure 3).
Given the increasing number of MSLs being launched over the next few years, and with the concern that KOLs are becoming less accessible, individual MSLs will need to be more successful during each engagement with a KOL. As a result, competition for a KOL’s time will likely increase…
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