Due to rigorous regulatory demands and the need for many years of safety and efficacy research, most medicines only have commercial patent protected lifespans of 10-12 years. This means that the speed of medicines adoption, following regulatory approval, is vitally important to pharmaceutical companies. While there are many factors that affect uptake, Medical Affairs teams are rapidly becoming the one of the most important facilitators of medical innovation adoption.
To understand why the role of Medical Affairs is so important in facilitating adoption, we first need to understand the mechanics of innovation diffusion. Everett Rogers’ book Diffusion of Innovations and the later work of Jeff More Crossing the Chasm sets out a clear model for understanding the process by which an innovation is communicated over time through the members of a specific community. It defines the role of five key groups in spreading innovation:
The model intuitively makes sense in healthcare setting. If the Innovators (the clinical study leads, clinical paper authors and research investigators) are not advocating and communicating about a new medicine then the Early Adopters (the people who traditionally educate their peers about emerging treatments through congresses and educational meetings) will either not find out about, or not support and communicate about, an innovative new medicine. Without the active advocacy of Early Adopters it is extremely difficult to establish credibility for a new medicine. The Majority will simply see it as too risky to and unproven to try and uptake will either be slow or in some cases never reach a critical mass.
Once the importance of the knowledge, or advocacy cascade, is understood it becomes obvious why Medical Affairs is so important. Their role in organising:
…is vital to coordinating Innovators and Early Adopters to share their knowledge and experience with peers. These activities ensure the smooth and timely transition of knowledge from the experts to the broader HCP audience, allowing innovations to achieve rapid and wide uptake. In an environment where delivering innovation is a race to recoup the huge cost of medicines research and development the role Medical Affairs teams as innovation facilitators can only grow in importance and recognition.