Medical affairs is an increasingly important role in Asia’s pharmaceutical industry. Beside serving as the connecting point between stakeholders, this function serves as a crucial role to improve confidence of drugs and stakeholders opinion of the pharma companies. Working closely with patients, physicians, regulators and payers, close professional communications and evidence presentations are what is needed in a high performing medical affairs staff in Asia.
One of the confirmed speakers at the Medical Affairs track at the 10th BioPharma Asia Convention, Singapore happening next 21-23 March is Dr Hema Bajaj, Head of Clinical Quality and Medical Excellence of Sanofi India who has kindly accepted our interview to share her personal view on the role of Medical Affairs in emerging markets, such as India and South Asia.
Q: Medical affairs is quite a new role in developing countries such as India, what is the current role of medical affairs in India and how do you foresee it changing in the near future?
Bajaj: Medical Affairs emerged over past half century in response to federal regulations which mandated separation of medical and commercial activities within the drug companies. Medical affairs is rapidly growing in developing countries such as India.
India is popularly known as “Pharmacy of the World” due to the large number of generic manufacturers located here that don’t require a medical affairs division. However, during the last decade many of these manufacturers and multinational companies have chosen to focus their R&D resources on developing new products and have moved the post-launch activities to Medical Affairs function. This has lead rapid growth of Medical affairs.
Q: Besides following guidelines from HQ, how do you ensure patient centricity in your team’s operation?
Bajaj: Currently the medical affairs function is focusing on post-launch activities, finding new indications for existing drugs and doing continued medical education for medical fraternity on new drugs or treatment recommendations.
In future, the definition of value that Medical Affairs brings to stakeholders will change and expand as the type of stakeholders who demand demonstration of value will multiply. Real world data generation and use of digital technology would be the future focus.
Q: What do you see as the greatest challenge in enforcing compliance within MNCs in India?
Bajaj: The greatest challenge in enforcing compliance within MNCs is the lack of uniform enforcement of ethical regulations across all companies, including local Indian companies, within the country. The self-regulated environment of ethical compliance is moving towards a regulated environment, however is yet not there.
With the advancements in technology, newer methodologies are being adopted, to deliver enhanced patient outcomes; however ambiguity of regulations relating to these emerging technologies results in a innumerable challenges to compliance.
Q: What are the patient engagement and education programs which are currently in place, and how are the results so far?
Bajaj: The majority of the patient engagement programs are presently focusing on education on the disease, healthcare professionals imparting information on management of disease, and engagement through patient support groups. Another area is supporting the screening of common disease conditions, since awareness is lacking in the huge number of lower socio-economic and illiterate population in the country.
Q: What would be your advice for young medical affairs practitioners in South Asia?
Bajaj: Changes in the technology and healthcare ecosystems have reshaped the expectations of the stakeholders and the focus has changed to generating meaningful data that should help in better understanding of disease burden.
Using digital technology and big data to find solutions to complex problems, and helping patients manage their illness in better way is the way to go.
The opinions expressed in these statements are individual views, and in no way represent the company opinions to which the individual belongs.
Find out more by joining us at BioPharma Asia Convention, Singapore on 21-23 March 2017 to attend Dr Hema Bajaj’s sharing on “Cultivating patient centricity in the evolving role of medical affairs“.