When hospitals and primary care trusts are restricting sales rep access to doctors, there’s an obvious place for personal visits from someone who can explain the science without the overt product promotion.

This is not a new concept. Medical Science Liasions, field-based medical information (medical science liaisions, scientific advisors or regional medical liaisons, call them what you will) have been around for many years. The discipline seems particularly well developed in the US where there is a very active community – see back issues of the Drug Information Journal for some great publications from thought leaders.

At the recent PIPA 2009 conference, Shaeed Chowdhury, Napp Pharmaceuticals, took us through his journey to justify, set up and manage a field based team. After hearing about the field-based team run by AZ at a previous PIPA conference, Shaeed was inspired to test if the concept would fit Napp’s organisation.

when you go to conference, you come away with great ideas

With a portfolio of more mature products, it was obvious to see that field MI had not been necessary before. However, with a developing pipeline of analgesia, oncology and respiratory products, the time was right for someone to bring to life the science for their key customers.

Managing a field based team is very different to an office based team and Shaeed took time to anticipate what he needed to put into place. Recruiting the right people located in the right area who were self-sufficient and resourceful. Regular teleconferences, ensuring the right level of interactiosn with head office staff. They also developed a “Work with your Medical Liaison Advisor” document with do’s and dont’s. Last but not least a great partnership with the office based staff. Shaeed also checked out 2 seminal breach of the ABPI code of practice cases; anon vs Pfizer (Auth/1186/5/01 Feb 2002) and Sanofi-Pasteur MSD vs gsk (auth/1910/11/06 May 2007). As we all know, we learn a lot from other companies cases (and keep our fingers crossed it’s not us). You must have clear blue water between the sales force activities and the medical information teams. This is a non-promotional role. For me, you always have to think – what would this look like on the front page of the Daily Mail or Times? After the recent scoops in the Daily Telegraph day after day on our MP expenses, we all know what that could feel like.

A lot of thought had gone into making sure that the field and office based teams worked together, using team building activities and shared experiences to gel them.

One interesting point was that Shaeed has found it diffiuclt to find the people that he really wants and he continues to search for a manager. So if this sounds like a great opportunity for you, maybe you need to get in touch!

So friend or foe? As Shaeed said:

it’s more a natural partnership.