Martians and Venusians, Different by Degree
Admittedly, the recent Medical Affairs Professional Society white paper “The Future of Medical Affairs 2030”1 has “a pharma focus, respectfully acknowledging its provenance and origins,” according to John B. Pracyk, MD, PhD, MBA, Chief Medical Safety Officer, Senior Vice President, Medical & Scientific Affairs, at Olympus. If a version were to focus strictly on medtech, Dr. Pracyk said it might “differ by degree, rather than kind.” The degrees of separation between pharma and medtech are outlined in “Medical Devices are from Mars. Pharmaceuticals are from Venus. What can we learn from each other?.”2 In this paper, Dr. Pracyk discusses how these two industries interact as part of the same ecosystem within the medical affairs discipline.
Timelines and resources differ
In addition to a basic distinction that surgeons tend toward medtech/medical devices and physicians tend towards pharma, medical affairs professionals on the device side (Martians?) are involved in product development from the beginning, whereas professionals on the pharma side (Venusians?) are involved around the time of product launch.
In medtech, “Our timetable is much shorter. It may take us two to three years to bring something to market. In pharma it’s going to be a decade or so,” Dr. Pracyk explained. And the disparities in the respective economies of scale is also telling, whereas pharma has greater numbers and subspecialities, and medtech typically has smaller, more cross-functionally trained teams.
Medical technology needed on Venus
Looking toward the future, Dr. Pracyk anticipates the need for specialized digital expertise in medtech. Increasingly, “medical devices have digital ecosystems; hence ‘medical technology’ is the new preferred term,” he noted. “You’re going to need practitioners that are versed not only in what’s going on in the disease state and the unmet needs, but how does the technology answer those unmet needs, deliver value, and do so in a safe and effective manner. So, we in medical affairs stand squarely at the intersection of medical practice and management science. And digital will catalyze this reaction.”
The world is flat
Whether on Mars, Venus, or Earth, social media’s impact on the landscape is also evident. “In the past there’s been a big focus on key opinion leaders – really, those people publishing and presenting. But now with social media, a small hospital in rural America, a regional referral center, or a government hospital in Europe, will all have louder voices and more significant contributory roles moving forward.”
Key opinion leaders will continue to present from the podiums, but new digital opinion leaders are also rising as key influencers on social media platforms. “A pulmonologist in Boise, Idaho, on a Thursday evening could decide to have a pop-up meeting with 40 other pulmonologists online,” Dr. Pracyk says. “And all of a sudden you see an uptick in conversations across the globe in a certain therapeutic area,” traced back through social media analytics to that event. “The world is becoming flat with regards to scientific engagement thanks to the reach of these social media platforms.”