Managed by NetworkPharma

Managed by

Facilitating Networking and Information Sharing amongst Pharmaceutical and MedComms, Medical Communications, Medical Education and Medical Publishing Specialists

This global initiative facilitates networking and dialogue amongst individuals working in and around the pharmaceutical industry and MedComms, focusing on specialist medical education, medical communications and medical publishing activities.
Why not sign up to our weekly newsletter and please, help spread the word amongst all relevant others.


  • Home
  • About us
  • Testimonials
  • Events
  • Useful Reading
  • In the News
  • Companies
  • Independents
  • Services
  • Training Room
  • Job Adverts
  • Webcasts
  • Podcasts
  • Starting out
  • Weekly Newsletter
  • Weekly Comment
  • Survey data
  • Sponsors

  • MedComms Networking on Linkedin

    MedComms Networking on YouTube

    MedComms Networking is sponsored by:

    Many thanks to all the Sponsors of MedComms Networking


    The Evolving Role Of Medical Affairs And How Medical Communications Can Support

    A packed room enjoyed an excellent afternoon's workshop. We put together a small panel of Medical Affairs Advisors and a Medical Director from global pharmaceutical companies to talk about their roles, the evolving landscape they work within and specifically how they want to work with MedComms agencies. We talked about data transparency, compliance and Sunshine issues, engagement with different audiences and stakeholders, and heard about how medical affairs personnel interact with other functional roles within their companies. Many thanks to AXON for hosting this valuable meeting.

    Scroll down for a summary report of the meeting and copies of the presentation slides.

    Date: Friday 26 February 2016

    Venue: AXON Communications, 160 Blackfriars Road, 7th Floor, Southwark, London, SE1 8EZ


    12.30-13.15 Registration and lunch

    13.15 Welcome and introductions - Peter Llewellyn of NetworkPharma and Ralph Sutton of AXON Communications

    13.30 Perspectives on... A day-in-the-life of Medical Affairs

  • Overview of key day-to-day tasks and responsibilities
  • Key audiences and stakeholders
  • How Medical Affairs activities complement other departments
  • Engaging with medical communication agencies
  • Speakers: Yuen Man, Senior Global Medical Advisor of Novo Nordisk, Garth Virgin, Medical Director of Vifor Pharma



    14.30 The evolving role of Medical Affairs

  • Changing landscape: EFPIA, compliance, transfer of value
  • Engaging with different audiences - pharmacists, nurses, physiotherapists
  • Moderated panel discussion and Q&A, facilitated by Ralph Sutton of AXON Communications

    15.15 Coffee break

    15.35 Perspectives on... how medical communications teams can best support Medical Affairs

  • Overview of types of work we do and support we provide
  • Discussion of where we can bring added value to Medical Affairs
  • Moderated panel discussion and Q&A, facilitated by Emma Kenny of AXON Communications


    16.30 Summary and close

    16.45 Drinks, nibbles and networking


    Summary report; written by David Jenkins, AXON Communications

    How much do you know about the day-to-day schedule and responsibilities of your Medical Affairs clients? Have you noticed a gradual change in the types of projects they are involving you with? And how do you think you will be supporting your Medical Affairs clients in the future?

    Over 60 medical communications professionals gathered at the offices of AXON Communications in London to discuss these topics; guest speakers from two pharmaceutical companies gave their perspectives on how the role of Medical Affairs has changed in recent years and the importance of support from medical communications agencies as their trusted partners. The meeting was facilitated by Ralph Sutton (International Managing Partner, AXON Communications)

    The meeting began with presentations by Yuen Man (Senior Global Medical Advisor, Novo Nordisk) and Garth Virgin (Global Medical Lead for Ferinject, Vifor Pharma). Both speakers highlighted the depth and breadth of their day-to-day responsibilities, the contact they have with many and varied internal and external stakeholders and how their work spans the spectrum of product development, pre-launch, post-launch and lifecycle management. The speakers echoed each other in highlighting the need to be flexible in their roles, as they may spend time reviewing draft publications, organising key opinion leader (KOL) meetings, co-ordinating educational activities (internal and external) and offering medical guidance. A meeting-heavy schedule, which can vary day-to-day and week-to-week, can mean that time to reply to emails or join teleconference meetings may be restricted and review of materials can be delayed. Yuen likened the role to that of an air-traffic controller: overseeing, marshalling and prioritising projects, but knowing at any moment activities may need to be put on hold when an emergency 'landing' needs to be handled.

    Both Garth and Yuen highlighted the importance of agency support to Medical Affairs and what they expect from an agency. Yuen commented on the importance of excellent project management skills in general, including adherence to timelines and budget; this should be coupled with a strong grasp of the overarching strategy, solid understanding of the scientific data, high quality writing and presentation of information in line with corporate guidelines and visuals. Garth emphasised that the keys to building a trustful relationship between client and agency are team consistency and transparency, especially when changes in either team occur. A third Medical Affairs perspective was provided by a colleague of Garth's, Marta Kokot (Medical Lead in Gastroenterology for Ferinject, Vifor Pharma). Marta added that honesty is a key component of a trusted relationship, starting right from the pitch presentation - being clear and transparent where the strengths/expertise and weaknesses of an agency lie. Professionalism of an agency is also crucial, as a bad experience for a key opinion leader, for example if an agency is being too aggressive in their communications, can in turn reflect badly on the client.

    While overall performance of an agency is of great importance, relationships are key and can (and should) be built between the individuals on both sides. Although email and teleconference are suitable for day-to-day communication, there is no replacement for regular face-to-face meetings. Building and maintaining a rapport can deepen understanding and enable an agency to provide invaluable assistance at very short notice. The concept of secondments of agency staff to a pharmaceutical company was also raised as a good way to provide support, build a relationship and gather further insights. It was suggested from the audience that formal, structured feedback between client and agency may also be of value to help both sides in effective partnering. Upskilling in areas of client need is important for the ongoing success of an agency - the speakers suggested that medical communications agencies should focus on building competencies in market access. By doing so, agencies can advise on how the value of new and existing drugs can be presented, in a market which now looks beyond favourable safety and efficacy data. Of particular relevance is the collection and interpretation of data that provide quality of life information, including patient-reported outcomes demonstrating measurable improvements in patients' wellbeing; such 'real-world' data are typically generated from registries and observational studies. Smaller pharmaceutical companies may lack budget to invest heavily in such strategies and, when choosing which approach to take, greatly value the counsel of agencies who have worked and gathered experience in this area for multiple companies.

    Capturing and maintaining the attention of an audience is an ongoing challenge for Medical Affairs departments; agencies are frequently asked to recommend creative approaches to projects. When asked, approximately half of the meeting attendees had at some point been instructed by their client to 'be more creative'. The speakers agreed that there is a delicate balance to be struck; creative expression should give an audience a new perspective and make key messages memorable but not detract from the scientific information presented. Attendees agreed with this, expressing the importance of a clear brief and, if possible, an understanding of what has been tried previously and didn't work (to avoid proposal of a previously unsuccessful approach). Both sides need a mutual understanding of what is meant and expected by the term 'creative'.

    The speakers agreed that a valuable asset for an agency is a comprehensive and current understanding of regulations and compliance, especially when liaising with key opinion leaders or organising events. This has gained new importance with the publication of EFPIA guidelines on transfer of value and the US Sunshine Act. In addition to this awareness and, in some cases being able to bring to the attention of clients important changes in guidelines, agencies are often called upon to communicate the regulations to healthcare professionals (HCPs) and collate information on payments to support clients with the necessary reporting.

    Emma Kenny (Partner, AXON Communications) led discussion about changes to the landscape of healthcare. Shifts in the global economy have required the adaptation of Medical Affairs to operate in new markets and communicate with new stakeholders, as pressure increases to produce more deliverables more quickly, with an increasing desire for “hot-off-the-press” digital communication. Garth observed that engagement with HCPs has always been and will continue to be a key part of the work of a Medical Affairs department; to this end, digital channels will continue to grow in importance and the importance of webinars is likely to increase for HCPs who face restrictions on time and travel. For example, delivery of education through webinars may become as important as through symposia at congresses.

    Medical Affairs departments are finding it increasingly necessary to engage with new audiences as the landscape continues to evolve; contact with pharmacists and general practitioners is increasing; and in Europe engagement with patient groups offers an acceptable way to gauge patient needs. Working with patient speakers or holding events at patient-driven congresses can also be important, but local regulations must always be considered. As market access becomes increasingly important, the role of payers as a key stakeholder is also increasing. Yuen highlighted that in recent years her activities have led her to engage more and more with laboratory scientists and the diagnostic community which supports physicians.

    By combining a solid understanding of science and medical practice with new ideas and fresh perspectives, medical communications agencies provide deeply valued support to Medical Affairs departments. The development of trustful partnerships between people who are passionate about healthcare and share the desire to improve patient outcomes is invaluable in a changing environment where new strategies and communication channels must be explored.

    To make sure you're included in announcements about future events just email Peter Llewellyn, if you haven't already done so, to register your interest.


    This meeting was free to attend thanks to the generosity of the event sponsors, AXON.



    Choice Healthcare Solutions
    Complete HealthVizion
    Content Ed Net
    FleishmanHillard Fishburn
    Fishawack Indicia
    Future Science Group
    IMC Healthcare Communication
    inScience Communications
    Inspired Science
    InterComm International
    NetworkPharma] Oxford PharmaGenesis
    PharmaGenesis London
    Porterhouse Medical
    Core Medica
    Prime Medical Group
    Radical Departures
    Real Science Communications
    Reprints Desk UK
    St Gilesmedical
    Synergy Vision
    Virgo Health
    Watermeadow Medical
    Words & Science

    This web site and associated activities are being managed by NetworkPharma Ltd, Magdalen Centre, The Oxford Science Park, Oxford, OX4 4GA, UK
    Telephone +44 (0) 1865 784390 Email: