Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
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Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
Pharmaguy curates and provides insights into selected drug industry news and issues.
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"Key Opinion Leader" (KOL) is the Most Commonly Used Term by Pharmaceutical Industry

"Key Opinion Leader" (KOL) is the Most Commonly Used Term by Pharmaceutical Industry | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

The Medical Science Liaison Society (MSL Society), the only 501(c)(3) non-profit organization exclusively dedicated to advancing the global medical science liaison (MSL) profession, has released the results of a first-of-its-kind global survey among MSL and Medical Affairs professionals regarding the most common term used to describe the physicians and other health care providers, whose opinions are highly regarded, and who influence other physicians.


The survey included 473 respondents from 54 countries and consisted of Executive Management/VP's of Medical Affairs, Manager/Director of MSLs, Medical Science Liaisons, Medical Advisors, and MSL trainers. Respondents also identified their company type as either Large pharma, Medium pharma, Small pharma, Biotechnology, Contract MSL Organization, CRO, Diagnostic Company, or Medical Device.     


A key finding from the survey is that 60 percent of respondents from pharmaceutical companies reported that their company uses the term Key Opinion Leader (KOL).


Other key findings include:


  • 62 percent of respondents from all company types reported that their company uses the term Key Opinion Leader (KOL). This was followed by External Expert (8 percent) and Thought Leader (7 percent).
  • 42 percent of all respondents thought that Key Opinion Leader was the most appropriate term. This was followed by Thought Leader (14 percent) and Medical Expert (13 percent).
  • 63 percent of all respondents thought that the healthcare industry should use a single universal term.


Dr. Samuel Dyer, CEO of the MSL Society, stated: "While there is considerable discussion within the MSL and broader Medical Affairs community of whether Key Opinion Leader is the right or best term to use, this survey reveals for the first time that the majority of companies utilize the term KOL, and the second most common term is used by a very small percentage of companies." 


Dr. Dyer also added: "It's clear from the data that not only is KOL the most commonly used term, but the largest percentage of respondents also reported that it is the most appropriate term."

Pharma Guy's insight:

LOL! Ask a carpenter what his/her most often used tool is and you are likely to hear "hammer." So should we be surprised that 62% of Medical Affairs pharma people respond that their companies use the term KOL?

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AstraZeneca Psychiatrist KOLs Forced to Resign from Texas State Hospital for Promoting Seroquel

AstraZeneca Psychiatrist KOLs Forced to Resign from Texas State Hospital for Promoting Seroquel | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |
Two psychiatrists at a Texas state hospital have resigned after being told they would face disciplinary actions for accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking and consulting fees from AstraZeneca while also promoting one of its drugs to state officials.

The psychiatrists allegedly violated various department rules as a result of their relationship to the drug maker, which involved efforts to ensure the Seroquel XR antipsychotic would be placed on the state formularyand prescribed by state physicians, according to letters sent to the physicians by the department. A formulary is a list of preferred drugs for which insurance coverage is made.

Texas officials say that one psychiatrist, Lisa Perdue, was paid more than $615,000 by the drug maker between 2005 and 2013, and allegedly approached members of the state’s Executive Formulary Committee, although did not disclose she did work for AstraZeneca, according to department documents. And Anthony Claxton received more than $231,000 between 2005 and 2012, according to department documents.

Pharma Guy's insight:

This illustrates the "toxicity" of Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs). For more on that read "A KOL by Any Other Name".

Meanwhile, the biggest pharma funder of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in 2009 was AstraZenca (AZ), which donated $1,255,000.00. Recall that AZ is forced to pay about 400X that amount ($520 million) to resolve allegations that it illegally marketed the anti-psychotic drug Seroquel for uses not approved as safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration (see HHS press release here).

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Did Coke Take a Lesson From #Pharma or Vice Versa?

Did Coke Take a Lesson From #Pharma or Vice Versa? | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Coca-Cola’s top scientist is stepping down after revelations that the beverage giant initiated a strategy of funding scientific research that played down the role of Coke products in the spread of obesity.

Rhona S. Applebaum, Coke’s chief science and health officer, helped orchestrate the establishment of a nonprofit group known as the Global Energy Balance Network. The group’s members were university scientists who encouraged the public to focus on exercise and worry less about how calories from food and beverages contribute to obesity.

Coca-Cola spent $1.5 million last year to support the group, including a $1 million grant to the University of Colorado medical school, where the nonprofit group’s president, James O. Hill, a prominent obesity researcher, is a professor.

Coke’s financial ties to the group were first reported in an article in The New York Times in August, which prompted criticism that the soft drink giant was trying to influence scientific research on sugary drinks.

The university returned the money to Coca-Cola this month after public health experts raised concerns.

Dr. Applebaum, a food scientist with a Ph.D. in microbiology, had been Coke’s chief scientific and regulatory officer since 2004. In that role she helped lead the company’s efforts to work with scientists as a way to counter criticism about sugary drinks.

At one food industry conference in 2012, Dr. Applebaum gave a talk outlining Coca-Cola’s strategy of “cultivating relationships” with top scientists as a way to “balance the debate” about soft drinks.

Pharma Guy's insight:

Just like the drug industry, Coke -- and probably other CPG companies -- uses "key opinion leaders' and creates astroturf non-profits to "balance the debate" and sell more product. For more on #pharma astroturf funding, read "The "RLS Gene" Story: Requip Ad Disguised as News on ABC"; and "Pharma Dollars (Pounds, Euros) are Grassroots Seeds"; 

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A KOL By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sour. What About POL?

A KOL By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sour. What About POL? | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Nearly two-thirds (62%) of medical experts (physicians who could be deemed genuine experts) believe the pharmaceutical industry should replace the term Key Opinion Leader (KOL) – according to the results of a new international online survey to be presented today at the Medical Affairs Leaders Forum in Berlin, Germany. The survey was conducted by System Analytic, a company that helps pharmaceutical teams to "identify, map, and engage with their medical experts and key stakeholders." 

According to the Pharma Marketing Glossary, Key Opinion Leaders are physicians who influence their peers' medical practice, including but not limited to prescribing behavior. 

"Pharmaceutical companies hire KOL's to consult for them, to give lectures, to conduct clinical trials, and occasionally to make presentations on their behalf at regulatory meetings or hearings." (see "The Secret Lives of Big Pharma's 'Thought Leaders'").

It's a well-known fact that KOLs often are chosen more for their high prescribing habits than for their knowledge or other attributes that would enable them to influence their peers. The recommendation to change the name follows concerns by the senior medical community (who participated in the research) that the term ‘KOL’ is too ‘closely associated with the world of marketing’ and is often ‘used inappropriately’ for people who do not necessarily warrant the title.

But how do pharmaceutical executives feel about changing the name? What name should be used instead? And, most importantly, will changing the name really change the game?

Find out here...

Pharma Guy's insight:

Although this issue is being hotly debated in Europe, I have not heard about it here in the US. I doubt that changing the name will happen given how deeply rooted it is in the pharma marketing lexicon. Think of all the job descriptions and consultant speak that would have to change. Besides, it wouldn't change how pharma chooses KOLs -- the best qualification would still be number of scripts written.

Speaking of opinion leaders, what about patient opinion leaders (POLs), which is a term used a lot these days to describe patients who have an influence over other patients, especially in online venues such as social media? I don't give a rat's ass about what you call them, but I do care that their relationships with pharmaceutical companies be transparent. For more on that read "Patient Centricity, Transparency, & Pharma’s Reputation." 

What do think are best practices that should govern pharma's collaboration with online "Patient Opinion Leaders" (POLs)? Take my survey here.

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