The Future of Medical Affairs

The Future of Medical Affairs


What are the future opportunities and challenges for medical affairs

As the interface between companies and KOLs, HCPs, payers and patients, medical affairs has grown rapidly in importance. And demands are set to grow with a wider number of stakeholders needing ever more specific data, information and support. How will medical affairs professionals meet evolving stakeholder expectations and prove to colleagues the critical value they play in pharma’s outreach?

Report Overview

In this strategic report, The Future of Medical Affairs, senior medical affairs experts from leading pharma companies peer into the crystal ball to identify the future challenges innovative practices and technologies that will shape future operations in this critical sector.

Reasons to Purchase

Report Features

In-depth interviews reveal unique and frank insights from medical affairs experts in the US and EU

Chart showing Medical affairs’ insight cycle

Chart showing opportunities for digital engagement

At-a-glance summaries of all the main insights.

Key Benefits

Understand the growing external and internal challenges impacting medical affairs and its development as a distinct and professional discipline

Investigate the trends and developments that are driving the expansion of medical affairs

Learn how and why organisational strutures vary when it comes to medical affairs

Assess the impact digital technology and big data will have on medical affairs operations and identify areas for action

Formulate plans to challenge negative internal perceptions about medical affairs and gain support for the critical role it will play

Size up the challenges facing the recruitment of experienced personnel as the medical affairs discipline grows

Appraise options for measuring medical affairs success and proving value to colleagues.

Key Questions Answered By This Report

Management challenge: How can medical affairs professionals secure leadership support and budget to meet growing demands?

Professional: In what ways can medical affairs challenge internal perceptions and be seen as a professional discipline of strategic importance rather than a support function?

Going digital: Digital technology is expected to revolutionise medical affairs practice but does this signal the end of traditional channels of communication?

Staffing: What capabilities will medical affairs need in the future and how will this impact recruitment and team building?

Valued added: What role will medical affairs play in the development of value-added services?

In or out? What trends support the view that HEOR teams should be part of medical affairs?

Expert Views

To ensure candid views were expressed, some expert names have been kept anonymous, but each has been selected for their experience and detailed current knowledge of medical affairs.

Dr Danie du Plessis. As Senior Vice President, Head of Worldwide Medical Affairs, Danie is accountable for medical affairs and governance across the Europe, Emerging Markets & Australasia, China, US and Japan regions and is based at GSK House in the UK. He previously worked for Eli Lilly & Company for 17 years in different roles and different therapeutic areas.

Jeff New, Associate Director, Medical Affairs Business Operations, Lundbeck, USA. Jeff has over 17 years’ experience in medical affairs and has worked for Chelsea Therapeutics, Dey Labs, Bertek Pharmaceuticals, Takeda Pharmaceuticals, and PPD in medical information, publications, and field medical operations.

Usman Iqbal, Senior Medical Affairs Leader – Neuroscience, Global Medical Affairs, AstraZeneca. Usman has 12+ years of healthcare experience, including clinical medicine, HEOR, global medical affairs and R&D in academia and the biopharmaceutical industry.

Michael Zaiac is Vice President, Medical Affairs, Hematology/Oncology at Celgene EMEA. Michael’s responsibilities encompass medical information, scientific communication and education, collaborative data generation and Celgene-sponsored studies operated by Medical Affairs across Celgene’s hematology and oncology franchises.

Executive Medical Director, Medical Affairs, Top 10 Pharma Company, USA

Digital Events Lead, Global Medical Affairs, Top 10 Pharma Company,USA

Director, Biotech Company, USA

Key Quotes

“I think HEOR data is growing in its importance. I still see us utilising the same types of skills that we have currently with MSLs. But as HEOR information becomes more important, we'll either need to provide that skill set and understanding through training or specifically hire for. We have MSLs that are in some cases very focused on a particular disease state. I think they'll need to have a wider understanding of the healthcare system and the impact that that disease state or therapeutic option has on the wider organisation. I think it will require more budget, because some of this shift in focus to HEOR data will require financial investment. Companies will need to produce and deliver that data and, whether HEOR is within medical affairs or not, it will require some funds.”

Jeff New, Associate Director, Medical Affairs Business Operations

“Behind the scenes, everybody's talking about transforming medical affairs and making it into a real value-based function. So, the path is there but this level of discussion won't happen because there are very few elements in the workforce that have the level of skills and competency to be able to talk on an integrated, strategic level, in terms of what medical affairs can offer and enhance its value in today's evolving healthcare landscape. One of the biggest issues that medical affairs faces is skill development and harnessing talent within the function.”

Usman Iqbal, Senior Medical Affairs Leader

“I believe whether digital technology will be used more for communication will depend on the prevailing culture amongst the customers you serve and within your company. For instance, a company like Celgene is very much a face-to-face company. I don’t think we would replace this through digital technology, but we may want to add novel technology, e.g. virtual advisory boards when appropriate. The effect of this on medical affairs is potentially a capacity enhancer because you can do more advisory boards with this virtual technology, but it will depend on the therapeutic area and the kind of culture the company has.”

Michael Zaiac, VP Medical Affairs

Who Would Benefit from This Report?

Medical affairs teams gathering data and initiating programmes to inform physicians, payers and patients

HEOR professionals working in or with medical affairs

Commercial teams needing to understand the value medical affairs can bring to their work

MSL teams needing to share the latest science and trial datato KOLs and physicians

Company leaders needing ensure appropriate support and funding for medical affairs

Market research and post marketing surveillance teams analysing long term real world data for medical affairs use

Content Highlights


Overarching objectives

Medical affairs role as the bridge between company and stakeholders

Key challenges for medical affairs

Establishing and professionalising medical affairs

Access to physicians

Demonstrating the value of medicines to external stakeholders

Demonstrating value to the company


Adapting to a changing working environment

Team structure and growth potential

Capability building

Field Medical Teams

Health economic and outcomes research

Harnessing digital technology for communication

Multichannel engagement

Virtual advisory boards

Medical education

Partnering with medical societies

Healthcare portals

Virtual access to medical affairs

Social media: challenge and opportunity

Data collection and analytics

Using big data to identify and segment KOLs

Big data for non-interventional studies and analysis

Collecting data from beyond the pill solutions

Medical affairs to play a bigger role in the future

About FirstWord

FirstWord is an innovative industry intelligence leader serving over 240,000 Pharma and MedTech professionals worldwide. FirstWord offers a range of products and services designed to help your company gain a competitive edge by making key business decisions with speed and confidence.

FirstWord Pharma PLUS is a personalised and comprehensive intelligence service delivering up-to-the-minute pharma news, insight, analysis and expert views of importance to your company’s success.

FirstWord Reports deliver timely, need-to-know intelligence about your products, your competitors and your markets. Covering biosimilars, market access, medical affairs, sales & marketing, technology and therapy areas, FirstWord Reports provide expert views and intelligence on the challenges facing pharma today.

1.Executive summary
2.Research objectives and methodology
2.1 Experts interviewed for this report
3.Key functions of medical affairs
3.1 Overarching objectives
3.2 Medical affairs as a bridge between company and stakeholders
4.Key challenges for medical affairs
4.1 Establishing and professionalising medical affairs
4.2 Access to physicians
4.3 Demonstrating the value of medicines to external stakeholders
4.4 Demonstrating value to the company
5. Trends influencing medical affairs teams
5. Key insights
5.2 Adapting to a changing working environment
5.3 Team structure and growth potential
5.3.1 Capability building
5.3.2 Field medical teams
5.4 Health economics and outcomes research
5.5 Harnessing digital technology for communication
5.5.1 Multichannel engagement
5.5.2 Virtual advisory boards
5.5.3 Medical education
5.5.4 Partnering with medical societies
5.5.5 Healthcare portals
5.5.6 Virtual access to medical affairs
5.6 Social media: challenge and opportunity
5.7 Data collection and analytics
5.7.1 Using big data to identify and segment KOLs
5.7.2 Big data for non-interventional studies and analysis
5.7.3 Collecting data from beyond the pill solutions
6.Medical affairs to play a bigger role in the future
6.Key insights
6.2 Critical success factors for medical affairs

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