Interview – Jean Delonca, Bristol-Myers Squibb - Medical Affairs Leaders Forum 2014
Leading up to NextLevel Pharma’s 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.
JEAN DELONCA, MD, MBA, Head of Medical Operations, Global Development & Medical Affairs Europe, Bristol-Myers Squibb
NLP: How have you seen the stakeholders which medical affairs departments engage with evolve in the past 5 years?
Jean Delonca: Although the traditional focus on physicians and prescribers remains important, many new key decision-makers and stakeholders have appeared (often referred to as payers), with different needs and expectations but with a single and very consistent objective: to improve the efficiency of healthcare expenditure by balancing costs with improved patients outcomes. In Europe, healthcare systems vary significantly across countries, so these payers can sit at the national, regional and/or local level; they also have different sets of rules which require a tailored approach, mostly based on scientific and health economics data.
Our internal stakeholders have also changed, with the creation of a new function coined “Market Access” in many companies to address the evolving external landscape. This has led to increasingly complex matrix interactions for our Medical Affairs function as our expertise is very often required to move projects forward. In addition, due to the strong economic and financial pressures, we also need to demonstrate the value of what we bring to the table in order to secure the resources we need to perform our activities.
NLP: Looking forward, how do you expect to see the medical affairs function in pharma companies developing over the next 5 years?
JD: Access to information has undergone a major revolution over the last decade, both in terms of speed – information is now available globally almost immediately – and with the emergence of new channels such as smart phones, tablets and social networks. This has not only modified the way physicians interact with each other and with the pharmaceutical industry, but has also completely changed the way that patients access information. The extensive use of internet as well as the rapid expansion of social networks means that patients are becoming more informed and a lot more influential. That trend will accelerate in the future and the increasing number of connected well-being/healthcare related objects will probably start playing an important role in disease prevention and management.
The traditional Pharma model driven by sales and marketing is under pressure. Access to physicians and other key stakeholders is becoming more restricted, with an increased focus on risk management, on real world data generation and on the need for more transparency, both in terms of sharing of data and of interactions between Pharma and healthcare professionals. In that context, I believe that the role of Medical Affairs which used to be key will become critical. We will only be successful if we are able to collaborate with our Commercial colleagues on an equal footing and companies that still consider Medical Affairs as a support function will be less well equipped to face and successfully address the challenges of the future.
NLP: How well do you think medical affairs teams engage with their key stakeholders? Why?
JD: We engage well with physicians and the medical staff providing patient care. We are slowly learning how to interact with payers in an increasingly complex environment. Although we cannot engage directly with patients, we probably need to better understand their needs for scientific information and their broader expectations on the management of specific diseases.
It is also critical for us to manage our internal stakeholders in a more proactive and transparent manner in order to be recognized as a valuable partner. To do that, we need to develop meaningful metrics and measure as well as communicate our impact. We can then spend more time on customer-facing activities rather than justifying our value and trying to secure resources.
NLP: How can medical affairs teams continue to better achieve an ROI for their companies?
JD: I prefer to talk about the value of Medical Affairs rather than the ROI which is usually related to sales. The role of Sales & Marketing is to optimize brand sales based on claims within an approved indication. The role of Medical Affairs is to gather insights, understand the unmet medical need and the potential data gaps, generate and communicate data, provide high quality medical education and support the safe and appropriate use of our medicines. If we are able to do that well, we will bring undeniable value not only to our companies but also to healthcare providers and patients. What one of my bosses said many years ago: “Good science is good business” has never been so true as today!
NLP: What is the most exciting thing for you about working in medical affairs right now?
JD: As mentioned above, in our rapidly changing environment, the role of Medical Affairs has become more critical than ever. It is a great opportunity for us to shape the Medical Affairs function of the future which will be more diverse and more complex, but also much more exciting. In a way, with more maturity also comes more responsibility: we must be accountable for designing the most appropriate strategies and for driving and executing the related action plans to secure and maintain access of our innovative medicines for the benefit of patients. Now is the time to write a new chapter on Medical Affairs in the extensive Pharma trilogy, and we are the ones holding the pen above the white page….
NLP: Why is this Medical Affairs Leaders Forum event a good idea for people to attend in your eyes?
JD: The Medical Affairs Leaders Forum will be the opportunity to take a step back from our day-to-day work to reflect on the evolving external landscape and future challenges for Medical Affairs organizations. Exchanging ideas with peers and colleagues on critical Medical Affairs topics, learning what others are doing or thinking both from a strategic and a tactical standpoint will provide interesting insights that can hopefully be used to design a framework to address those challenges. It will also be the opportunity to meet new people and to further consolidate our individual networks.