Interview – Anton Ehrhardt, Sanofi – Autumn Medical Affairs Leaders Forum 2014
Leading up to NextLevel Pharma’s Autumn Medical Affairs Leaders Forum, we are conducting email interviews with selected members of our prestigious speaker panel to learn more about their thoughts on this vital issue.
*Opinions below are those only of the individual and do not reflect upon corporate strategy or positioning.
Anton Ehrhardt, Head of Oncology Field Operations, North America Medical Affairs, Sanofi, USA
NLP: What do you think makes the current medical affairs environment so challenging for pharmaceutical & medical device companies?
Anton Ehrhardt: In a word, perception. Of course, specifics are different for different countries, companies, and therapeutic areas, but the perception of the industry as a health care partner is not strong. This influences interactions with regulators, investigators, customers, patients, etc., and complicates the transparent and honest environment essential to Medical Affairs.
NLP: Which trends have you seen on the ways in which the pharma & biotech sector approach KOLS and stakeholders over the past 5 years?
Anton Ehrhardt: The separation between companies and health care professionals seems to be widening. Again this is due to a large variety of factors, but this “laundry list” likely includes government-imposed financial disclosures, increasing costs of data generation combined with reduced available budgets, and increasing negative perception of the industry. All of these are empowering external stakeholders and advising even more independence.
NLP: How much do you think the medical affairs & MSL roles in the pharma & device sector are increasing their influence?
Anton Ehrhardt: Undoubtedly, Medical Affairs is increasing in importance. Customer and payer influence is increasing, and those stakeholders demand open scientific exchange, complete and non-misleading information, and access to new data. These are the ideals of Medical Affairs and their field-based representatives. This trend toward increasing Medical Affairs influence within pharmaceutical and Medical Device companies is expected to continue for some time.
NLP: What’s the best thing for you about working in medical affairs right now?
Anton Ehrhardt: Impossible to answer with a single thing. This is a great time for Medical Affairs. Customers are demanding what Medical Affairs organizations provide, and our companies are shifting resources in response to those demands and other environmental factors. More than ever before, now is the time when we in Medical Affairs can positively affect patient care, science, and our industry. This environment is empowering really good industry people to make a difference, and most importantly, enhances our ability to support independent HCPs in their efforts to deliver high-quality health care. Frankly, this makes going to work each day a pleasure.
NLP: Why is this Autumn Medical Affairs Leaders Forum event a good idea for people to attend in your eyes?
Anton Ehrhardt: Just like free and open scientific exchange is the life-blood of Medical Affairs, meetings such as the Autumn Medical Affairs Leaders Forum facilitates free and open exchange of best practices, issues, approaches, and thought processes that support the optimization of this vital industry function. Public discussions that include both local and international considerations, trends, and solutions raise all of our competency levels. Such conferences provide the equivalent of academic “masters symposia” for those of us responsible for leading Medical Affairs.