[This article is part of our Summer Webinar Series]

Initially, the traditional pharmaceutical industry company model included two main pillars: Research and Development and Commercial (i.e. Sales and Marketing). However, the need for an intermediary between these two organizations yielded Medical Affairs. Originally, Medical Affairs emerged as a reaction to increasing pressures from regulators to separate medical and commercial functions. Over the past 25 years, continued regulatory pressure shifted a number of commercial activities to Medical Affairs—evolving into a separate area, which has both the scientific and clinical expertise to support commercial products.

Today, Medical Affairs is one of the largest functional areas within the pharmaceutical industry. Moreover, a recent survey by Industry Pharmacists Organization showed that Medical Affairs fellowships are the most prevalent of any functional area. Thus, the demand for Medical Affairs professionals, including PharmD-trained individuals, continues to grow. From Medical Communications to Medical Science Liaison, the opportunities for pharmacists to become integral members of a Medical Affairs team are numerous

The overall goal of Medical Affairs is to disseminate scientific information in a fair and balanced manner to improve patient care. The various subgroups that comprise Medical Affairs contribute in different, but crucial, manners to achieve this goal. In order to fully understand where one’s strengths would be best suited within Medical Affairs, it is critical to grasp the scopes, responsibilities, and deliverables of each of these subgroups. These various subgroups include:

  • Publications – generation of abstracts, posters, manuscripts and any other peer-reviewed, scientific content
  • Medical Communications – generation of internal scientific material, including training materials, congress activities, and literature reviews
  • Medical Information – content creation, upkeep, and formatting of documents used in response to external inquiries
  • Medical Science Liaison (MSL) – collaborate with key external stakeholders to provide disease and product education and information, and address medical inquiries from the scientific community
  • Medical Director – creation of overall Medical strategy and content expert
  • Medical Operations – logistics of congress planning, managing of Medical materials, and collaborating with MSLs
  • Medical Training – ensure Medical team is adequately educated on key literature surrounding products and disease states
  • Competitive Intelligence – inform company of any relevant developments from competitors

In order to be a positive contributor to a Medical Affairs team, one must be able to communicate scientific and therapeutic information through written and oral mediums. Moreover, the ability to solve complex problems through evidence-based literature review is key to providing value to internal and external stakeholders. The PharmD curriculum provides opportunities for continued self-development of these specific skill sets through various venues, including the didactic curriculum, experiential education, faculty-guided research, and student pharmacist organizations.

headshot of Michael WellsMichael Wells, PharmD, is a US Medical Affairs / MSL (Rare Diseases) Post-Doctoral Fellow with MCPHS University and Sanofi Genzyme


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