Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs), within a pharmaceutical company’s Medical Affairs group, are commonly responsible for cultivating long-term relationships with Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs). KOLs, often affiliated with renowned academic medical centers, the foremost researchers within a therapeutic area, or editors/contributors to key journals within their specialty area, can offer insights and participation that are critical to the development of a safe and effective pharmaceutical product.
There are many reasons that pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and device companies engage KOLs. Enlistment of expert KOLs is most often done for the following key reasons:
- KOLs offer intelligence and best practices surrounding treatment issues and unmet needs in a therapeutic area ― enabling a company to focus on targeted product development.
- KOLs offer insights into treatment gaps and other unmet needs ― enabling the company to attend to clinical development.
- KOLs often offer valuable information around the clinical trial design so that study accrual is hastened, and key values and scientific/clinical data are produced by treating physicians.
- KOLs serve as both primary- and sub-investigators for clinical trials; thereby, increasing the visibility and impact of trials to other healthcare professionals.
- KOLs present the findings from clinical trials during poster and podium presentations and as authors of publications. Their early involvement and understanding of a product help them educate other physicians about the product.
- KOLs can provide disease-state education to their clinical/medical/scientific peers, building awareness of treatment options.
- KOLs can educate clinical/medical/scientific peers about the treatment algorithms for decision-making and about therapeutic options that are available to physicians for the best treatment of an individual patient.
KOLs have a powerful influence on the therapeutic choices of healthcare professionals, and they deliver credibility and marketing leverage to pharmaceutical companies.
Today, there are Key Opinion Leaders who are translational researchers, bench scientists, experts in epigenetics, interventional radiologists, etc. Experts like these have become more necessary, especially since the advent of targeted molecular therapies.