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 Guys 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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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 Guys 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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Teva's "KOLs" are Shams, Claim Former Sales Reps

Teva's "KOLs" are Shams, Claim Former Sales Reps | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |
Two former Teva sales representatives say the drugmaker used speaker programs to hide kickbacks for prescribing drugs Copaxone and Azilect.

In a recently unsealed second amended complaint, the reps, Charles Artstein and Hossam Senousy, claim Teva devised an illegal scheme—including unlawful marketing and promotional and sales practices—to sway physicians to write prescriptions for Copaxone and Azilect. They allege that Teva paid them as “speakers or consultants in connection with sham speakers programs and events.” The two whistleblowers filed the complaint against Teva in Manhattan.

Pharma Guys insight:

This is an example of why many physicians as well as pharma people think the term "Key Opinion Leader" should be changed, according to a recent study. Listen to this podcast: A KOL by Any Other Name 

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