Medical advisory boards are instrumental in helping companies develop key scientific messages that address unmet needs and best communicate new clinical trial findings. They have become an essential resource for pharmaceutical companies in providing thought leadership, subject matter expertise and scientific direction. By their very design, based on a conversational approach, advisory boards provide key opinion leaders a unique forum in which to express their views and provide recommendations on medical interpretation and scientific communication of new drug data.
The role of medical communications professionals in advisory boards
Careful selection of high-level advisors ensures that these boards are composed of key opinion leaders and influencers in their area of specialization.
Agencies can play an important role in the planning and execution of advisory boards:
- As experienced professionals with a well-developed roster of physician contacts, they have long-term relationships with trusted key opinion leaders. This enables them to identify the most appropriate individuals in the sector or disease area for participation in the advisory board;
- Expertise to assist the pharmaceutical company in developing an engaging and focused agenda that will ensure that their objectives are achieved and that they gain the best possible insights from the advisors;
- Long-standing knowledge of the disease area and product to help create engaging advisory board content and workshop materials designed to promote maximum participation and discussion;
- Expert facilitation allowing the pharmaceutical company to concentrate on listening to advisor feedback, or to actively participate in a dialogue, rather than having to focus on facilitating;
- Flawless meeting execution by event planning specialists in order to ensure that advisors have a positive experience, and that the pharmaceutical company obtains the input they are seeking from the meeting.
With each of the above elements, the medical communications agency acts as an extension of the pharmaceutical company’s medical affairs team to enhance their in-house capabilities. Members of medical advisory boards become, in effect, strategic partners with the medical communications agencies that organize – and sometimes facilitate – them, as well as with the pharmaceutical companies. In addition, the fact that boards are comprised of healthcare professionals with no vested interest in pharmaceutical manufacturers’ products ensures unbiased insights and objective messaging ideas.
Strategic, effective use of advisory boards
Advisory boards help drug makers identify ways to communicate key scientific information, such as product benefits or side effects that make a real difference to physicians and/or patients.
A variety of processes can be used for message development. One example is developing “a hierarchy of messaging” in which concepts and phrases are created along thematic lines and then ranked according to importance according to the target audience. Advisors then exchange feedback on these, continually honing them and shuffling their priority. In this scenario, the advisory board acts as a “laboratory” in which ingredients are defined and refined to produce an impactful result to be incorporated into the pharmaceutical company’s scientific communication strategy.
The members’ recommendations are incorporated consistently in publications, scientific communications, educational materials and company communications, even before the time of product launch and beyond. This often takes place over an extended period of time and throughout a product’s life cycle.
Fostering relationships between agencies and pharmaceutical companies
The importance of maintaining close communication and a feedback mechanism between drug companies and medical communications professionals cannot be over-stated. A consistent team of medical writers supporting strategic development of key messages at advisory boards helps provide traction for new products as they enter the marketplace. The agency’s challenge is to create key messaging that is at once scientifically sound and convincing. They act as a mediator between clients and global advisors, ensuring that both sides are heard.
The interface between the medical communications agency and the pharmaceutical company is ongoing. Agencies at the top of their game know their clients well and understand their communication strategies and style. They are proactive in continually seeking scientific updates and suggesting message refinements as new science emerges.
Well-thought-out advisory boards that are customized to client mandates have become foundational to establishing key messages and communication platforms. They help physicians make treatment decisions for their patients, utilize medications appropriately, and help patients understand the world of science.
The communications professionals at Six Degrees Medical Consulting have over a decade of experience working with top-tier pharmaceutical companies around the world. We provide our clients the services of a consistent team of medical writers who support medical advisory board execution, including key message development, helping them gain traction for new products.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can put our expertise to work for you in developing your key messages or check out our latest blog, “Six Factors to Consider When Designing Advisory Boards”.