A Guide To Medical Affairs

Medical Affairs has been labelled as a key role within the pharmaceutical industry. 

Medical affairs professionals working

Medical Affairs serves as the bridge between the industry and the wider medical community. This function is uniquely tasked with managing external relationships with key thought leaders within the scientific community across a range of therapeutic specialisms, as well as with patient groups, authorities and beyond.

Those within Medical Affairs work within a cross-functional environment, effectively linking science and commercial activity. The primary focus of medical affairs roles is to provide scientific and clinical support for commercial products and in effect act as the medical face of a pharmaceutical company.

It is a crucial function in any pharmaceutical company and there are a variety of roles and progression pathways to build your career. Take a look at some of the routes here:

One of the first steps into Medical Affairs is usually in a junior Medical Information role.

Medical Information involves handling enquiries around company products, both externally from healthcare professionals and patients and internally, for example from sales and marketing teams and providing an accurate response.

Some enquiries are straightforward and can be answered with a standard response from company product information but as you get more experienced in Medical Information you will handle more complex enquiries that involve literature searching and preparing responses.

Senior Medical Information roles

Some more Senior Medical Information roles involve copy approval which is the review process for promotional and non-promotional materials that are produced by the company. The materials are checked against the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) code of practice as they have to be compliant to this code in the UK –“The detailed provisions in the Code aim to ensure that pharmaceutical companies operate in a responsible, ethical and professional manner.“ (PMCPA)

Scientific Advisors 

Scientific Advisors are also responsible for copy approval as well as providing support to brand/marketing teams with scientific information and code compliance for marketing materials, conferences and other events. They are also involved in building relationships with Key Opinion Leaders in a specialist therapeutic area to build or maintain awareness of the products and brands.

Medical Science Liaisons

Medical Science Liaisons have a very similar role to Scientific Advisors however they are field-based in a designated territory where they focus on building relationships with KOLs. In addition, they support sales and marketing teams, ensure compliance to the ABPI, co-ordinate investigator initiated trials and run medical events such as advisory boards. MSLs can also support clinical trial functions as part of the role.

If you are looking to move into this area the minimum requirements are usually a bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy or Life sciences. It is essential to have a good ability to interpret scientific information in both written and verbal forms and be able to communicate this to customers at all levels.

Medical Affairs is certainly a great career to get involved in and an area where you can contribute to the pharmaceutical community, aiding these companies achieve their goals of helping people to feel better and do more. 

You may also like to read:

Medical Science Liaison job profile

Medical Writer job profile

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