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liaison positions = Ph.D. entry into pharma

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liaison positions: NOT A DEAD END POSITION!!

Postby Dave Jensen » Mon Jan 17, 2011 10:53 pm

RGM, I find nothing unusual and/or problematic about Chris's story and DX's and other comments on the MSL. As with any position, it is your interviewing and communication skills that rule the roost. If you've been interviewing a long, long time, I'd strongly recommend that you examine your style, the kinds of comments you make while being interviewed, etc. You could be sending the wrong signals and not even know it.

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Surprised- here's why

Postby RGM » Tue Jan 18, 2011 2:44 am

Hi Dave,

I haven't been interviewing a long time. I have been applying for a while though. I have researched this position for a longer time than I have been applying however.

First I never said anything about the Chris's story was "problematic" I said I was shocked, surprised etc. That's not problematic in my book.

Why I'm surprised, and this information below is not based on my opinion, it is based on the numerous informal interviews I have done with people who are MSLs, regional and national managers, and the limited information provided by the original poster.

1. Many small companies often look for experienced MSLs because they do not often have a large medical affairs infrastructure

2. It appears, and I could be wrong, that the original poster just sent out resumes without any sort of connection, like the internet black hole we so often talk about and warn against. So, that makes me wonder what was it about this person's resume that caused him/her to go into the "interview" category

3. Critical, this person has no prior MSL or even pharma industry experience. Typically, a lot of the hiring manager's are looking for people with "previous experience". I realize someone like the original poster can by cheaper to hire due to lack of experience.

4. According to the original poster, it sounds as if the s/he doesn't have any relevant background in the therapeutic area. Typically, PhDs w/out prior MSL experience, IF they are hired have a research background in the therapeutic area. Example..you are a Neurology MSL, your PhD thesis was in neurobiology. Renal MSL, your PhD thesis work was in the kidney etc.


Dave, I'm not saying there is anything wrong or problematic with Chris's story. I'm just saying it goes against everything I have learned from every MSL and recruiter in the industry. Especially in this economy where there are other people with obviously more experience than the original poster. Don't get me wrong, there are the exceptions to the norm. This person is one of them. I would also add, that the hiring manager is also an exception too. Most of the hiring managers are not interested in people w/out prior MSL experience. There are a few companies known to hire people like the poster, but they are not the norm for the industry.

I agree Dave, the interview is the most important. However, the things/criteria I listed above are all things the hiring managers look for before they interview. So for a person to actually get an offer, especially from a small company is surprising to me based on the information I have been told.

Again, this information is not my opinion. It's what I have been told.
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Surprised- here's why

Postby Rich Lemert » Tue Jan 18, 2011 9:17 am

It may be that this person received the same information you've been getting. She might just have been more effective at countering those arguments and explaining why SHE was a good fit for the job.
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Surprised- here's why

Postby Nathan » Tue Jan 18, 2011 9:34 am

Maybe it depends on the hiring expectations of the medical affairs director doing the hiring. Ask DX, he knows. DX stated the position has been in bit of flux for the last five years. When I spoke with about about 50-100 MSLs (2006-2007), the requirements were quite varied. Please correct me if I am wrong, many feel a MSL is not an entry level position for post-docs and will not hire someone without industry experience first. Spoke with a small biotech in Dallas about this, their HR and Medical Affairs Director wanted 10-15 years industry (clinical and/or marketing) experience with a PhD or PharmD. Whereas, others felt there should be an entry level route for PhD and PharmDs from academia. Email DX, RGM.
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Nathan and Rich

Postby RGM » Tue Jan 18, 2011 1:55 pm

Rich - I don't disagree with you. However, it sounds as if Chris lacked all of the typical things hiring manager's usually want (previous MSL and/or pharma experience, and a scientific background of some sort in the therapeutic area). Now, perhaps this company didn't require certain things in the 1st round of screening meaning before the interview, and these things weren't listed in their advertisement for the position (assuming that's how Chris heard of the position). In short, without more details, I'm just really surprised.


Nathan - The "only" trend I'm aware of is that having that terminal degree, PhD, MD PharD has been more of a requirement. I've already contacted DX to get his viewpoint too a couple days ago. My personal MSL friends are equally as surprised as me. However, like me, they are also curious about the poster's scientific background, and other relevant bits of information. It is rare for a person w/out previous experience, and little or no scientific background in the therapeutic area to be hired as Chris seemed to describe. With more information it may not sound as surprising..Hence my original title "Shocked for now" as opposed to "Shocked".

AGAIN, there simply isn't enough information to call this a "typical MSL hire" based on all the information I have gathered over a long period of time.

I'm just really shocked for NOW.

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Nathan and Rich

Postby Dave Jensen » Tue Jan 18, 2011 3:37 pm

My company has placed dozens and dozens of MSL's over the years. I see nothing unusual about what was described, because MSL hiring managers work on the same principals that other hiring managers operate on . . . In other words, they "see what they are looking for" (wording on a cover letter, sound of voice on a phone call, great smile and solid handshake, etc) and that counts for a great deal.

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Nathan and Rich: That was 2006, things have changed

Postby D.X. » Wed Jan 19, 2011 3:23 am

Hi RGM, Nathan, Dave.

First RGM, I recieved you email, i'll respond early next week if you dont' mind.

Second, I would challenge that was 2006, the very same year I received my first MSL position with about 4 months of medical writing experience and about 6 months after I left my post-doc (which was 1 year long). This is 2011.

The environment has changed alot, and Nathan and RGM are absolutely correct, today, many companies are looking towards either experienced MSLs or those who have many years in Medical Affairs, Clinical Development or some form of clinical experience. Consider that the MSL role HAS BEEN and will be increasingly a key strategic force that pharmaceutical industry will leverage to get decision maker buy-in.

This push is being driven by a number of reasons include:

1. Regulatory environment (OIG, PhRMA, Sunshine Act, State-level)
2. A move away from the traditional sales rep activity, consider they can't take a doctor out to dinner anymore 1:1 or give reminders etc, ALL of their activity needs to be tied to education (!! big issue driving increased MSL activity).
3. Shift in decision makers, presriber power is decreased, while MCOs, PBMs, Gov't Payers, Hospital Formulary are key targets.
4. Need to provide scientific value to customer (IMS surveys show that customers would rather talk to a MSL than a Sales Rep).
5. Also consider access to customer, many key institutions (centers of influence and reseach such as those associated with Harvard Medical School) and hospitals have closed their doors to Sales reps, leaving the medical liaison the person who can most likely access those places via their medical activities (clincial trial support, IITs, provision of medical information, etc.).
6. Also consider many states today forbid HCPs to accept meals from the industry (Minnesota, Mass., Vermont), and U.S. Federal Gov't employees (i.e. VA hospitals) can only accept what amounts to a cup of coffee. So really, sales rep access goes down alot and ability to secure face time drops precipitously. (but this is actually OK..industry knows this and has actually been a force in reducing the provision of gimmics (i.e. pens) and meals without documented presentations by KOL/HCP promo-speakers). Also consider U.S. Sunshine Act.

This is not to say that the Sales rep position will go away, but the importance of the MSL has grown tremendously. Also consider that MSLs are operating under Federal guidance allowing for safe harbour when it comes to scientific exchange with health care practioners. Under this umbrella of exchange there are very strick guidelines where a MSL can operate and a Sales rep can't. This is why MSLs are in medical affairs, and sales are in Marketing, both groups are technically firewalled from each other internally (they should be by LAW).

So, the point is, there is alot of RISK a company faces when dealing with MSLs today, such that there is a need, more than ever, for well trained, well educated, and well experienced folks in clnical science, not only to include industry knowledge, but also knowledge of how to operate in the strick regulatory environment which can only come from industry experience.

As an example, my mame has ended up on a list held by the US Dept. of Justice and Dept. of Defence in an investigation of reimbursement fraud due to an off-label promotion activity, my KOLs gave it when agents showed up to investigate their site, my computer was sweeped by legal dept. daily, I was clean obviously, the KOLs were nervous. Had I actually engaged in such activity, my company would have had to pay alot of $$ fines, probably received criminal penalties, and I would have been..well..dealing with the courts).

This the reason why many companies specifically look for experienced MSL today, it has just become such an important role for industry, especially in the US, and now growing in importance in Europe (increasing regulatory environment here, some countries have restriced sales rep activity, i.e. Sweden, and physician acceptance of pharma money is also restricted, i.e. Germany, and marketing activities highly monitored, i.e. UK ABPI).

So that leaves with my opinion, that the MSL role should no-longer be perceived as a "entry-level" role for a Ph.D. post-doc without bona-fide industry or clinical science experience and one who does not know the regulatory environment, or rather what it means to operate there.

At least, a Ph.D. post-doc in my mind should not be 100% focused on getting a MSL job right out of the lab. I recommend putting this position NOT as a first-step, but as a second or third step to be examined if interest still exists later on. It is always possible a well talented PhD with all the right stuff could get in the door, but that is less common today that it was in 2006. The position continues to change and it what it was in 2006, is not what it is in 2011, and probably, will continue to change in 2012 and 2013.

I have already seeing metrics change drastically since 2006 to include:
1. Measure of Days in Field (i.e. one company I know demands nearly 4 out of 5 days in the field)
2. Surveying of HCPs after the visit to access Quality and Value of MSL interaction (!!)
3. Certifying of TA knowledge (company level) using techniques that include not only answering a test question but the MSL also has to give confidence rating on correctness of answer
4. Documented knowledge of how to operate in regulatory environment
5. Ability to deliver scripted 'verbatims' in response to questions
6. Expansion of number of products and TAs an individual MSL may support.
7. Inclusion of Key Accounts into Target Universe.
8. Strick guidance on how to interact with cross-functional internal AND field-staff, which is audited quite frequently (I had to get VP Medical Affairs Sign off to have a Clinical Development Exec. Director do a ride along with me, and had to get permission from both VP Commercial and VP Med Aff to have a Commerical Director attend a presentation I was giving)

This would have never happened in 2006.

Hope I answered some questions here and why one shouldn't be shocked. I am curious to hear what other MSLs are saying.

My two cents.




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Thanks!

Postby RGM » Thu Jan 20, 2011 4:26 pm

DX...Thank you for vindicating all the research I have done on this position. I knew my sources, and my own research was accurate.

More importantly, thank you for the detailed answer. As always you provide extremely useful information I do not always learn or think to ask about re: this position.

Happy travels!
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Thanks!

Postby Dave Jensen » Thu Jan 20, 2011 5:10 pm

I've got to interject something and break up the happy commentary . . . RGM, I hope you realize that despite all the changes in the market since 2006, it is still very possible for a candidate who DOESN"T have all the current list of "must haves" to make it by simply presenting themselves in the right way, by networking, and by "clicking" with the hiring manager. Not everything is so analytical, so "process oriented" in the people business,

Dave
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Agreed Dave

Postby RGM » Fri Jan 21, 2011 4:14 pm

Happy? Nope..just being objective.

I completely agree Dave. In my MSL job hunting experiences, all the face to face interviews I made with big and small pharma I was the only person without previous pharma experience and in some cases without territory knowledge as well. I'm doing something right.

I know it's possible; it's just much harder as my research from people like DX and more senior poeple have indicated. Thus, with it being much harder, the story of the original poster is more rare, and not the norm.
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