MSLQ VOL 1-1 2003


Jane Chin PhD.

Even as MSL programs have significantly expanded and the number of medical liaisons have increased, this profession seems shrouded in mystery.

Back in 2000, I was corresponding with George Hradecky (Pharmaceutical Representative magazine) about interactions between industry divisions. I asked George where I could find a trade magazine for medical science liaisons, and learned that there wasn’t one. The seed was planted for providing medical science liaisons (MSLs) with a central platform.

The past few years have seen a growth in field-based medical programs in the biopharmaceutical industry. Even as MSL programs have significantly expanded and the number of medical liaisons have increased, this profession seems shrouded in mystery. Thorough understanding of the medical science liaison role by functions outside of medical affairs is more a rarity than a given. Some MSL program directors face tremendous difficulty justifying the need for additional MSL headcount to corporate accountants. Even as the medical science liaison role is assigned to a manager’s level, the case of “good MSL programs turning ugly” exists, and MSLs find themselves answering to quotas the way pharmaceutical sales representatives are monitored for productivity and performance.

When I began training toward my certification as a competitive intelligence (CI) professional, I saw a remarkable similarity between a competitive intelligence officer and a medical science liaison. Both are exposed to copious amount of data that the astute and analytical mind (typical of a CI officer and of a MSL) can synthesize into critical decision-making information. A CI officer and a MSL offer intangible deliverables – insight for the CI officer and thought-leader relationships for the MSL. Both roles are easily misunderstood or misinterpreted – a CI officer may still find herself explaining that she is not a glorified librarian; a MSL may still fight the perception that he is not a glorified sales rep.

It is no wonder, then, that my love for competitive intelligence fuels my passion for giving medical science liaison a voice in the biopharmaceutical arena. This is indeed an arena, with research- and corporate players participating in the evolution of MSL programs. At this point, government regulators have yet to step in, but I suspect as the FDA gets its personnel in place and if public concern reaches a critical threshold, we’ll be given the rules of the game.

In the last five years, the competitive intelligence professional community has grown dramatically in membership and produced outstanding leaders, rendering the CI profession more recognized and appreciated than ever before. Standard descriptions of the profession and ethical guidelines for conduct have emerged and been integrated into competitive intelligence programs. It is my hope that soon, the same will be true for a professional whose job description remains heterogeneous, with the largest variance in the unwritten codes of conduct from company to company.

Now is the time that medical science liaisons proactively shape the way their roles are perceived, and will be perceived in the years to come. It is not enough to excel in our profession: we have a responsibility to debunk what myths remain about what we do.


You can greatly enhance the potential of having a successful job search if you know how to work effectively with a professional recruiter.The ideal time to identify a recruiter to work with is before you actually need one.

Dot Werner, Associate, William Halderson & Associates.

You have decided you are ready to make a career move. More than likely, if you are reading this newsletter, you are already a Medical Science Liaison or you want to move from academia or pharmacy practice into industry. Chances are good that your job search will involve working with a recruiter. You can greatly enhance the potential of having a successful job search if you know how to work effectively with a professional recruiter.

The ideal time to identify a recruiter to work with is before you actually need one. If you are in industry, you are probably already receiving calls from recruiters. You can build rapport with them by answering their calls. Make referrals or answer their questions and you will become someone recruiters remember when they have opportunities in your area that may interest you.

Finding the Right Recruiter

If you are new to the search process, you want to find recruiters who specialize in Medical Science Liaison(MSL) opportunities. Network with people you know who are already in industry. Find out which recruiters they know and have had positive experiences with. You can also research on the internet to find recruiters who work in this area. Evaluate the recruiter’s professionalism during your initial telephone contact. Do they return your phone calls or answer your e-mails? Do they listen? Do they answer your questions? Do they present you with opportunities that match your criteria? Can you comfortably talk to them?

When you have identified a recruiter or recruiters to work with, ask them how they work, how long they have worked with MSL positions, whether they specialize in MSL positions, and whether they know what MSLs do. Most recruiters work on search assignments where their fees are paid by the client company, but there are some exceptions to this. For your peace of mind, you should verify who pays the fee. An ethical recruiter will call you when they have an opportunity that matches your requirements and background, and present the opportunity to you.

The recruiters will share information on the position, including the company, therapeutic area, travel requirements, and compensation. They may have a job description they can send to you. From this information, you can determine if you are interested in the opportunity and give them permission to forward your CV or resume. Do not allow recruiters to send your CV or resume without your permission – your resume may end up where you do not want it to be.

Once you decide you are interested in an opportunity and give the recruiter permission to forward your CV, you will find it helpful to keep a log of positions you are interviewing for, and the contact information for the recruiter involved, and the date they contacted you. If you are contacted by a second recruiter about the same opportunity, do not allow the second firm to present your CV Tell them you have already been presented on the opportunity. An ethical recruiter will accept this, appreciate your honesty, and call you for future opportunities.

If you allow more than one recruiter to present you on a job, it cheapens your candidacy. The company may decide to discard you as a candidate rather than decide between recruiters, or they may think you are “desperate” to find a new position if they receive your CV from more than one recruiter.

Inform and Follow-Up

Make certain that your recruiter(s) have a good grasp of what you are looking for – location, travel limitations, compensation. If you have expertise in several therapeutic areas, let them know your preferences for a new position, if you have a preference. MSL roles vary from company to company. If you have preferences as far as job duties, let them know. For example, some MSLs work with investigator initiated studies, some work with marketed drugs and some work only with drugs that have not been approved yet.

Any information you can provide the recruiter about your requirements and preferences will help them. Give them accurate information about job history and salary requirements.

As the interview process begins, keep in touch with your recruiter. Contact your recruiter prior to phone interviews or face-to-face interviews. If the recruiter has worked with the company before, he or she will be able to give you helpful information about the company or the interviewers. Contact the recruiter again after interviews, whether you felt the interview proceeded well or otherwise. Companies often judge a candidate’s interest level in the position by how quickly the candidate gives feedback to the recruiter.

If the interview process has progressed to a point that you are a final candidate for the job, let the recruiter know if you have other opportunities you are also considering. Normally, they can go back to the hiring manager and make them aware of this to speed up the process for you. Be honest – let the recruiter know if you are more interested in one opportunity than the other.

If, for some reason, you decide that this is not the opportunity for you, let the recruiter know. Recruiters prefer to learn this from you now than have the company call with an offer and find out you are no longer interested. Share with the recruiter your questions or concerns about the opportunity.

The interviews were successful and you have received a job offer – congratulations! In some cases, companies make the offers, and sometimes the recruiter is requested to extend the offer. In either case, keep in touch with the recruiter. Recruiters can also help your negotiation process.

A final thought on working successfully with recruiters: while most recruiters are paid by the hiring pharmaceutical or biotech company (and therefore work for them), a recruiter’s job is to appropriately match candidates with clients’ needs.

If you provide the recruiter with accurate and detailed information about your background and your desires for a new position, and if you keep in touch with recruiters through your job search/interview process, you’ll greatly enhance the chances of a successful outcome for the search.

Dot Werner is an associate with William Halderson Associates, Inc., where she specializes in the placement of Medical Science Liaisons in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. She has been with the firm for 12 years, and can be reached at The firm also works in placing PhD, PharmD, and MD candidates in other disciplines in the pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device markets.


This is an excerpt from Dr. Hui’s manuscript, “FDA’S Proposed Rules on Patent Listing Requirements for New Drug and 30-Month Stays on ANDA Approval (Proposed OCT. 24, 2002)”, in press for the June 2003 issue of Annals of Health Law.

Nancy Hui, Pharm.D., J.D.

Most of us assume that when the patent of a brand name drug expires, generic drug companies would jump in and start selling the generic version. Well, not quite so. Given the hundreds of millions of dollars invested in the development of a pipeline product, pharmaceutical manufacturers have employed various strategies to extend patent rights.

In 1998, a leading generic pharmaceutical manufacturer received an Abbreviated New Drug Application (ANDA) approval from the FDA to market the generic version of a hypertension medication. The generic manufacturer was granted an exclusive 180-day period to market the generic anti-hypertensive under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDAC).

In other words, no other generic companies could market the drug until the generic manufacturer has been doing so for at least 180 days. Within 48 hours of the approval, the generic manufacturer and the brand-name manufacturer entered into an agreement: the generic manufacturer would not enter the market and would receive over $4 million per month from the brand-name manufacturer.

Since the generic company would not start marketing the drug, the 180-day exclusive period would never be triggered and subsequently, no other generic companies could enter the market. The end result is an indefinite extension of the brand-name manufacturer’s patent on the anti-hypertensive. This agreement was terminated upon pending investigation by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the generic company began marketing the anti-hypertensive in August 1999.

Under the FDAC, all patents related to the brand-name drugs have to be listed in the Approved Drug Products with Therapeutic Equivalence Evaluations, commonly known as the Orange Book. In order to gain approval from the FDA on a generic drug, the ANDA applicant has to convince the FDA that either there is no patent related to the application, the patent has expired or will expire soon, or the patent is invalid or will not be infringed by the generic version. If the ANDA applicant certifies to the last point, i.e. the patent is invalid or will not be infringed, and the brand-name drug manufacturer files a patent infringement lawsuit, the court must put a 30-month stay on the ANDA.

The FDA may not approve the ANDA until the court rules that there is no infringement, the patent has expired, or the 30-month period expires, whichever comes first. The idea is to guarantee that the patent holder has a chance to defend for himself without injuring his patent rights. However, the brand-name drug company may “evergreen” its patent rights by periodically adding a patent that relates to the brand-name drug in the Orange Book. Remember, the ANDA has to certify to the FDA for every single patent listed in the Orange Book that relates to the brand-name drug.

If the brand-name manufacturer files a patent infringement suit against the applicant on an ANDA, gets a 30-month stay, and adds another patent to the Orange Book right before the 30-months period expires, the applicant has to address this new patent. If the brand-name manufacturer files another patent infringement lawsuit on this newly added patent, it will then receive a second 30-month stay on the ANDA. By adding new patents to the Orange Book at the “right” moment, brand-name manufacturers could get multiple 30-month stays and extend patent terms for years.

The FTC has reported that since 1998, the incidence of getting multiple stays on ANDA is rising. In one case, the brand-name drug company got as many as 5 stays. In an attempt to close loopholes in the ANDA approval process, on October 24 of 2002 the FDA proposed to modify its regulations by restricting the types of patents that could be listed in the Orange Book (“Docket Number 02N-0417-Applications For FDA Approval To Market A New Drug: Patent Listing Requirements And Application Of 30-Month Stays On Approval Of Abbreviated New Drug Applications Certifying That A Patent Claiming A Drug Is Invalid Or Will Not Be Infringed.”) Specifically, only patents that claimed the drug itself, the process of making the drug, or a method of using the drug could be listed.

All patents that claimed the metabolites, intermediates, or packaging are prohibited from listing. In other words, only patents that really involved the drug entity could be potential hurdles to an ANDA. The FDA also wants to limit the number of 30-month stay to only one per ANDA. The rationale is that the brand-name manufacturer would have put on notice about a potential patent infringing activity (the ANDA) when it receives the first 30-month stay.

The FDA hopes that these modifications would encourage the introduction of generic drugs into the market and hence lower the cost of health care without causing too much damage to the patent rights of innovators. Generic drug companies welcomed the changes even though the FDA failed to address the 180-day exclusivity provision.

The regulations also drew criticism from legal scholars as they questioned whether the FDA has the statutory authority to make such changes. Some worry that the new regulations would attract even more lawsuits involving generic drug approvals and add an enormous price tag to all the drugs – brand-name or generic – that enter the market.

Since the announcement of these proposed regulations last fall, the mandatory 60-day comment period had just been completed. A list of comments that the FDA received could be found on the website After the FDA reviews all the comments, it will decide whether to go forward with the changes.

Nancy Hui is an oncology medical science liaison for a biotechnology firm. Nancy is based in Houston, Texas.


Pharmaceutical companies have increasingly implemented Medical Science Liaison programs as part of their ongoing marketing initiatives. But simply deploying liaisons to interact with thought leaders does not guarantee market success.

Elio Evangelista, Senior Analyst, Cutting Edge Information.

Pharmaceutical companies have increasingly implemented Medical Science Liaison (MSL) programs as part of their ongoing marketing initiatives. But simply deploying liaisons to interact with thought leaders does not guarantee market success. It is critical that MSLs remain committed to the science behind a product. Otherwise, thought leaders who listen to MSLs’ marketing pitches will be permanently turned off from working with them.

MSLs are integral to advancing new research within a therapeutic area, growing market awareness prior to launch and discovering new indications and market needs for a product. To do so, however, MSLs must focus on developing win-win relationships with key opinion leaders.

According to a new study by pharmaceutical intelligence firm Cutting Edge Information, the most successful MSLs build viable, long-term thought leader relationships through continuous interactions with opinion leaders over a number of years. Often, MSLs will work with 25 to 50 thought leaders within a region at any given time.

Cutting Edge Information’s research found that MSLs who remain scientifically focused and offer thought leaders the opportunity to advance research within the given therapy area benefit greatly from increased product awareness through strong publications. Pharmaceutical companies must also provide thought leaders with research opportunities that could lead to increased influence within the medical community.

For example, Cutting Edge Information studied one company whose liaisons monitor opinion leaders’ research progress and help plan a post-research publication strategy. As the relationship develops over time, liaisons provide valuable insights on new research within their therapeutic areas, which, when applied, helps build their status within the medical community.

Win-win relationships between opinion leaders and medical science liaisons develop over time and require an open, honest exchange of ideas. According to one interviewed executive, it is important to always “do it right” when working with medical professionals. By this he means things should not be done “half-way.”

The competition for the top-notch opinion leaders is fierce, and MSLs must develop high-quality, logistically smooth programs. Over time, thought leaders develop commonly held perceptions of the different programs each company offers, and it is critical to a company’s future opinion leader development to build a reputation as one that “does it right.”

Lasting relationships draw on win-win scenarios for both the company and thought leaders. Company liaisons that act with clear commercial motivation – only working with thought leaders to benefit a drug during launch, for example – turns many thought leaders away from a company. For this reason, some pharmaceutical companies’ medical education groups position themselves as service organizations providing meaningful scientific aid to thought leader contacts.

MSLs continue this relationship by acting as a resource in the field. They may set up meetings for local thought leaders with a respected national-level investigator, for example, or provide information on new research into specific disease states.

Providing such services helps MSLs forge bonds with the company in the long-term. MSLs find physicians interested in clinical investigations through its thought leader relationships. At the next level, MSLs identify candidates for speaker programs and approach these individuals about increasing their involvement in product development and advocacy.

Senior Analyst Elio Evangelista’s previous work includes research project management experience in the pharmaceutical, energy and utility industries. His research work in marketing development and organizational structure has led directly to major changes at several Fortune 500 companies. Elio’s research in competitive intelligence, staffing, budgets and resource allocation encompasses many industries and functional areas. He received his Bachelor of Arts from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.


I first heard of the position of a medical science liaison through a headhunter. A MSL who? Ah, must be a glorified sales representative, I thought to myself.

Andrew K. Than, M.D.

Some of us enter the field of medicine to satisfy our sense of purpose, a thought-provoking realization that we are placed on this planet to make a difference. After all, this was the main reason why I wanted to become a family physician. I valued being in a position whereby I could make a difference in other’s lives. I cherished developing relationships with my patients, becoming their friend and caretaker of their health, and ultimately serving as a role model in the community. In essence, medicine cultivated my sense of purpose to contribute to society and this fulfillment fueled my passion for the field.

The present state of healthcare is far from utopia, despite its rewards. Medicine in the era of managed health care continues to deteriorate into a murky underworld of ambivalence and financial corruption. The patient’s health seems no longer a top priority. Financial concerns drive the bottom-line and this in turn negatively affects our health care delivery system. The once autonomous physician now must practice within the confines of restrictive health plans.

As such, the physician’s ability to provide top-notch health care has been whittled away by decision makers who often have little awareness of patient care. Cynicism and excessive bureaucracy dulled my passion for medicine. As days passed, I realized that my ability to impact a patient’s well-being was waning, and with it, my sense of personal fulfillment. Picture a family practitioner struggling to provide optimal patient care under the onus of bureaucracy and a pile of paperwork, and you’ll get the idea.

With a glass-half-full mindset, I searched for the unicorn in the sky – a career equally rewarding and self-fulfilling – minus the cynicism and bureaucracy that often plagues clinical medicine. I first heard of the position of a medical science liaison through a headhunter. A MSL who? Ah, must be a glorified sales representative, I thought to myself.

At first, I didn’t even seriously consider this position. I could not see myself pushing a drug, especially if the drug was not clinically warranted. After wrestling with the issue for weeks, I decided to interview with a pharmaceutical company for a medical science liaison position. My original intent was to get a better grasp and understanding of the opportunities available within the pharmaceutical industry.

I was intrepid about the idea of crossing over to the “dark side.” I stereotyped industry-type positions as ruthless, self-serving and money-driven. Above all, I feared that I would miss patient care. Would a medical science liaison position give me that sense of purpose or fulfill me like clinical medicine? Prior to this transition, I firmly believed that being a general practitioner was the only means by which I could serve a noble cause to society, fulfill my sense of purpose, and make a difference.

Fast forward eighteen months later, and I am now a cardiovascular scientific liaison for a global pharmaceutical company. Much to my surprise, my stint as a medical science liaison has been more rewarding than clinical practice. I am thoroughly enjoying my new career. I am no longer being told how to practice medicine by corporations. Of course, MSLs cope with bureaucracy of a different kind, under jurisdiction of federal/pharmaceutical association guidelines and corporate politics.

The MSL, however, is in a better position to still make a difference. Particularly, my role and contribution to medicine no longer resides with one-to-one patient care. Instead, I am impacting medicine and patient care en masse because my primary function as a MSL is to support medical education and research. I value this noteworthy distinction between the two careers.

As an MSL, I always feel a genuine sense of purpose: I believe that my daily activities will make a difference to improve patient outcomes. This sense of purpose is driven by the fact that MSLs are often in a strategic position to improve patient care by fostering educational initiatives, disseminating cutting edge medical information, and collaborating with research pioneers in a therapeutic area to increase understanding of a disease state. I’ve had numerous opportunities to educate health care practitioners in a therapeutic area, disease state or in appropriate drug utilization and dosing. This can be achieved by various modalities, whether by presenting scientific rigorous medical information to medical residents or in developing evidence-based hospital protocols to streamline clinical pathways and minimize drug errors.

Working as a MSL continues to stimulate and fulfill my intellectual curiosity. MSLs are often catalysts to further the research and understanding of a biological pathway, thus sometimes fueling paradigm shifts in the treatment of disease states and the way health care is delivered. I’ve had many thrilling and rewarding interactions with highly renowned thought leaders.

These collaborative efforts entrench me in the forefront of the latest medical advances – always pushing the envelop to find newer, better, and more efficient ways to maximize health care delivery and improve patient outcomes – a stark contrast to the doldrums of everyday patient care.

A career as either a family practitioner or a medical science liaison can cultivate one’s sense of purpose and need to contribute to society. As a medical science liaison, I am in a better position to impact patient care on a global scale and interact with true research pioneers in a therapeutic field.

I am the “eyes and ears” for my company, staying abreast of the latest clinical issues and serving as a catalyst to disseminate cutting edge and clinically relevant information – with the ultimate goal to improve patient care. It is a rewarding career that allows me to make a difference and yet maintain a flexible, stress-free work schedule.

I think I may have found my unicorn.

Andrew Than is a medical science liaison for a global pharmaceutical company. Dr. Than is based in in Los Angeles, California.


No pharmaceutical company has achieved “Partner of Choice” status in biotechnology alliances. The market is wide open for a company to build tremendous strength from licensed and co-promoted biotech products.

Jon Hess, Senior Analyst, Cutting Edge Information.

The cost of producing a marketable drug has skyrocketed in recent years due to greater regulatory oversight, increased competition and globalization. More complex market issues of portfolio management, physician relationship management and consumer education have radically altered the pharmaceutical landscape.

To meet analyst expectations and satisfy shareholders, pharmaceutical industry giants need to replenish their pipelines with potential blockbusters and hedge against blockbuster droughts with a continuous, healthy flow of specialty and medium-sized drugs. Now more than ever, pharmaceutical companies need to outsource R&D work to their biotech counterparts – and they are doing so in record numbers.

Pharmaceutical intelligence firm Cutting Edge Information completed a study of pharma-biotech alliances and found that nearly a third of new pharmaceutical products are now developed through alliances. Recent news that five major pharmaceutical firms have no billion-dollar blockbusters in late-stage development highlights the rising importance of these collaborations. The metrics shown on the right provide hard evidence of the biotechnology industry’s rising importance.

Pharmaceutical companies are not the only ones that stand to gain from these partnerships. Opportunities abound for biotechs, as well. They often lack the marketing muscle and colossal sales forces required to prepare the market for a new drug. Biotechs need big pharma’s strong marketing arm to achieve rapid sales uptake and boost peak annual sales.

So, naturally, pharma-biotech alliances are a match made in heaven, right? Not necessarily. While pharmas and biotechs work toward the same objectives – creating new and improved treatments to improve healthcare, they are two very different animals. Smaller and more flexible than pharmaceutical companies, biotechs’ most coveted assets tend to be their scientific minds and proprietary technology. Pharmaceutical companies also possess these assets, but their contributions to partnerships more often come in the form of regulatory and commercialization support.

To achieve partnership bliss, each party needs to understand the other’s business, the value proposition each brings to the table, and perhaps most importantly, subtle nuances, such as corporate culture, that can ultimately make or break a deal.

Cutting Edge Information’s recently completed study reveals specific steps pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies must take to excel in these alliances and strike mutually beneficial deals to develop new drugs. Pharma-biotech collaborations have yielded mixed results. While some substantial benefits have surfaced, no pharmaceutical company has emerged as the biotech industry’s “partner of choice.” The title is still up for grabs, and the company that eventually dons this nametag will have the right to first refusal on new drugs as biotechs will wait in line to partner up.

Working Within Your Limits

Companies that recognize their strengths and limitations develop lucrative partnerships without overtaxing resources. It takes a mature, well-led organization to be honest with itself about its shortcomings. Biotech firms must have a clear idea of what they need from a major partner, and this task is not always easy – veteran negotiators make frank appraisals of their company’s capabilities and use this understanding to develop smart, win-win deals. On the other side of the table, pharma companies must know when to rein in their partnering impulses. The most lucrative deals turn disastrous if they do not fit with strategic objectives or depend upon non-existent expertise, resources or infrastructure.

Cutting Edge Information Senior Analyst Jon Hess’s previous work includes research project management experience in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and diagnostic industries. His research work in manufacturing, marketing, predictive medicine, sales and clinical development has led directly to major changes at several top healthcare companies.


“Dark Side” is an anonymous column about less-than-stellar facets of the MSL profession.

“The Dark Side goes beyond the nights on the road, airport hassles and a lack of nutritious home-cooked meals. Instead I am referring to the lack of understanding internal customers have about the role of the MSL and the constant struggle to define my position.”

MSL Anonymous.

When asked what an MSL does, I automatically respond with, “I call on key opinion leaders at medical schools in my regional states.” If they ask for more details, I tell them “I develop rapport with my contacts that lead to interesting and insightful exchanges of information in the XYZ field. I sponsor trials, discuss current and future products, provide slide kits and clinical data, organize visiting professorships, develop speakers and relay feedback from thought leaders to my company.” Sounds great doesn’t it? But what I’m really thinking goes beyond the daily activities of my chosen profession.

What I am thinking about is the Dark Side to being an MSL. The Dark Side goes beyond the nights on the road, airport hassles and a lack of nutritious home-cooked meals. What I am referring to is the lack of understanding that my corporate “internal customers” have about my role and the constant struggle to define my position.

At my company the MSL team is aligned under sales and marketing. Need I say more? For those of you lucky enough to be aligned under Medical Affairs or those contemplating an MSL position, allow me to elaborate. Marketing and Sales view the MSL team as glorified sales reps. They expect an MSL’s one-hour conversation with a key opinion leader (KOL) to be the same as the three-minute hallway-detail reps execute. They expect KOLs to accept the marketing message with or without accurate scientific representation of the message. Heck, they may expect us to march into the KOLs’ offices with their glossy detail aids and a few pens. If we march in enough times and hit them over the head with the marketing message, they’ll suddenly agree that our products are far superior to the competitors’ products.

Our sales force views MSLs as speaker program coordinators who can make KOLs spew crafted marketing messages at promotional dinner programs. Witness this marketing senior executive at a regional corporate meeting: “Some people say our thought leaders don’t sell products. That’s not true.” This belief propels reps to equates opinion leaders as regurgitators of corporate marketing messages, and along that line, MSLs as insurers that this regurgitation happens. The erratum was delivered at the next company meeting when a marketing director clarified that thought leaders deliver scientific- and clinical data to help reps “open doors” or completes the sale in physician offices.

Medical science liaisons who are expected to assume a promotional role are plunged into a vicious cycle. When we spend time to promote current products, we don’t have time to discuss pipeline compounds. Without appropriate discussions to elicit feedback on future products, pre-marketing teams won’t have the appropriate information to develop a successful launch. We’ll be back to “selling” thought leaders when new products are commercially available.

The good news is that our medical science liaisons are making incremental progress with both Sales and Marketing divisions. Marketing managers are soliciting our feedback on many issues related to current sales trends. Regional sales directors are beginning to understand what is appropriate for thought leaders to communicate at dinner programs. This progress is slowly trickling down to the sales force. If our medical science liaison team can devote the time and resources critical for upcoming product launches, we may be able to solidify our true importance with in the organization. Time will tell.

If you are a current or past medical science liaison and want to participate in the Dark Side column as an anonymous contributor, please contact and specify “MSL-Darkside” in the subject line.

MSL Anonymous is a medical science liaison for a global pharmaceutical company.


Many MSLs rely on pharmaceutical and medical Web sites and portals to provide valuable news and information. Searching the vast Web for targeted information, however, can often remain elusive.

Cynthia C. Correia, MLS, Fuld and Company.

With the ever-increasing growth of content, technology, and other tools, business and research professionals have enjoyed improved access and availability to information. This benefit, however, signifies a greater expectation for information delivered quickly and economically (preferably free), as well as a greater reliance on information for professional efficacy, productivity, and performance. The Web has played a prominent role in this development and, holding a wealth of content and tools, it widely remains a convenient and promising source for business and competitive research and analysis.

For medical science liaisons and medical affairs professionals, the Web can offer the opinions of thought leaders, provide awareness of current therapies, and fuel insights and analyses for their company’s competitive intelligence practices. Many MSLs rely on pharmaceutical and medical Web sites and portals to provide valuable news and information. Searching the vast Web for targeted information, however, can often remain elusive.

When researching the World Wide Web, most searchers turn to one of the major search engines with the hope that the right site will appear among the top results. Unfortunately, as statistics and surveys reveal, most searchers are disappointed by this approach. Moreover, many search tools provide inadequate search features, instructions, and tips intended to enable users to uncover appropriate material on the Internet. While expert searching as practiced by information professionals involves advanced techniques and tools, some of these can enable savvy non-info pros to uncover vital resources.

When discussing advanced search techniques, one of the most essential concepts is the Invisible Web, aka Deep Web or Hidden Web. The Invisible Web is thoroughly treated by Gary Price and Chris Sherman in their definitive book, The Invisible Web-Uncovering Information Sources Search Engines Can’t See. Briefly defined, the Invisible Web describes Web-accessible resources that are not captured by search engines. This type of material includes databases, dynamic pages, non-hypertext markup language (non-html) document formats, sites requiring login, recently updated html page content, and html documents that reside deeper in a Web site – resources which often comprise the most content-rich and relevant resources for business and industry research, for example:

· Industry and Company Directories

· Industry News and Resources

· Interview Transcripts

· Conference Proceedings and Presentations

· Regulatory Filings and Reports

· Domain Name and IP Address Directories

· Patent Databases

· Court Cases

· Investment Research

· Market Research Reports

· Real-time News and Other Information

An example of an Invisible Web resource in the Pharmaceutical industry is Phrma’s New Medicines in Development Database ( Search engines index the database Web page, but do not capture the database contents.

The increasing sophistication of search tools, however, has brought forward material previously considered belonging to Invisible Web. Google, for example, now captures non-html file types like Microsoft Word, Power Point, Excel, Adobe Portable Document File, and Rich Text Format, as well as images, telephone directories, and print catalogues. Other Web sites, online search tools, and desktop software are increasingly targeting the Invisible Web. Nevertheless, gaps exist and, as the Web universe expands exponentially, searchers need to utilize advanced tools and techniques to search for quality resources efficiently and effectively. Some tips to consider:

Choose a couple of top engines and understand their strengths, weaknesses, and search features well.

Search engines vary in the number and type of material they index, and even the best engines capture only a portion of the Web. Understanding how to use a couple of engines well broadens the number of searchable sites. Use an engine’s advanced search features to find documents more effectively. For example, find Power Point presentations that discuss clinical trials in oncology by using Google’s filetype: feature:

“clinical trials” (oncology OR cancer) recruitment filetype:ppt

Or identify Word documents containing the biographies or curriculum vitae of clinical researchers in immunology:

immunology “clinical research” (biography OR bio OR vita OR vitae) filetype:doc

The above search strings illustrate how using Google’s advance search features can target results. The phrase search “clinical trials” ensures that the two words appear together, eliminating vast number of files that contain instances of the words appearing apart. The OR operator combines synonyms, word variations, or other related concepts that documents may contain. The filetype operator specifies the type of document to retrieve. Other search features include filtering by date, searching within a domain name, and geographic searching. These features can often be found in the “Advanced Search,” “Search Tips,” or “Help” pages.

Supplement favorite engines with Invisible Web and other specialized directories and tools.

These resources vary by their scope and type of coverage, but they are aimed at collecting resources that search engines miss. Choose a couple of favorites here, too.

Some Specialized Invisible Web Resources:

· Complete Planet

· Direct Search

· Invisible Web

· The Invisible Web Directory

· Profusion

· SurfWax

Medical and Pharma Sites Containing Invisible Web Resources:

· MedWeb: Pharmacy and Pharmacology

· Link Pharm of the MSL Quarterly

Use search engines to identify Web pages that host the resource you want or pages linking to those resources.

While actual Invisible Web resources are not searchable via engines, their Web pages or pages linking to them are. We can take advantage of this to locate databases of Canadian physicians via the Altavista engine, for example:

database* NEAR (physician* OR doctor*) NEAR canad*

By including the term “database” in the search string, we can find sites and portals that contain the resource we want. To search for other types of resources, simply apply the appropriate terms that relate to the resource (directory, filings, list, presentations, etc.) or the search function (search, searchable, find). Also, please note the advanced search techniques used above: The asterisks expand the search terms to include plural and variants forms of the word. The NEAR operator specifies that the terms appear in proximity to one another.

Include specialized subject-specific search engines to target resources.

There are an increasing number of engines that specializes in science and medical content. While features vary, many search Invisible Web resources, peer-reviewed articles, and various file formats. For lists of specialized engines, visit Search Engine Watch, including:

Medical Search Engines

Science Search Engines

Identify the likeliest sources or hosts for resources.

Industry associations, professional organizations, and government agencies, for example, often include searchable databases, conference material, and other Invisible Web resources on their Web sites. By identifying these organizations through search engines or directories, we can in turn search their Web sites for valuable material. Search engines can be helpful in identifying material within a particular site. To find abstracts or presentations only within the Web site of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, we can use the site: feature in Google, for instance: “Infectious Diseases Society of America” (abstracts OR presentations)

While the Invisible Web is only one aspect of the multifaceted universe of business and competitive research, and a small component in the broader practice of competitive intelligence, it is critical to uncovering resources that are often unavailable or inconvenient through other means. It can also present an efficient and sometimes low-cost method of uncovering material that can enhance awareness, support insights, and provide a competitive edge. Access to the Invisible Web, however, requires a deeper understanding of searching and a conscious application of more advanced techniques. As we can see from the guidelines above, some of these techniques may be easily applied, and a growing collection of resources are aimed at supporting more advanced research to satisfy increasingly complex business needs.

Cynthia Cheng Correia is Director of Information Services at Fuld & Company, Inc., a research and consulting firm that has pioneered competitive and strategic intelligence services for a quarter century. She heads Fuld & Company’s literature research services, and provides consulting and training in information management and research to support competitive intelligence (CI). She appears as a speaker and has written on research and CI issues. Ms. Correia is also featured in Super Searchers on Competitive Intelligence (Information Today).


A quarterly column about transitioning into and out of the medical liaison profession. This issue features Bill Lester, Ph.D researcher-turned-medical science liaison. Bill works for a global pharmaceutical company and is based in Dallas, Texas.

“I actually found out about the medical liaison job through divine intervention. My grad school mentor was approached for the position by a recruiter. My mentor told me about the job instead, and asked me if I’d be interested.” Bill Lester.

JC: That was how you discovered the medical science liaison profession?

BL: Yes. I had an “epiphany” – there are actually other jobs out there besides research for PhDs! I talked to the recruiter to ask for more information. I went to and browsed job boards. I liked what I saw in the job description.

JC: You weren’t concerned about leaving the bench?

BL: I wasn’t interested in becoming a hot-shot researcher, and research did not satisfy me.

JC: How did you prepare for the interview?

BL: I read a ton of interview books. I practiced interviewing with my wife. We went through behavior-based questions, and I had notes written down for many different situations. I was ready to go when I was asked a question!

JC: What would you suggest for a PhD who had no MSL experience but is interested in breaking into this profession?

BL: I suggest that you research on how to interview for a job. This was very valuable for me – even though I had no past MSL experience, I had many examples on skills as a team player, problem solver, independent worker, and self-starter. You should really dig into your history when preparing for your interview, because you never know if your history can connect positively with the hiring manager’s history. The key is to make a connection.

JC: How long have you been an MSL? What are some of the challenges of this profession?

BL: I’ve been an MSL for about three-and-a-half years. A challenge is traveling. I didn’t travel extensively before becoming an MSL, and all the logistics of travel and the travel preparation can be initially intimidating. The amount of administrative work in this job is another price we all pay to be in this job. It was also scary the first couple of times when I met my docs – to know what to say.

JC: What are some success factors for people who want to enter this profession?

BL: You have to be people-oriented. You have to get along with people, be diplomatic, be comfortable speaking to a group, and assume the role of a teacher or trainer. You can’t be scared to approach people and talk to them. You have to be willing to learn.

JC: Any words of wisdom for your MSL colleagues?

BL: Be Flexible. This is a corporate environment – things are going to change. Your friends may get reassigned, your managers may leave, you may get passed over for a promotion. You need to adapt and know that this is not a perfect job, just as your colleagues are not perfect and you aren’t perfect.

JC: How does your MSL experience thus far compare with your previous job as a research PhD?

BL: I got more job satisfaction within the first couple of weeks as an MSL than I did in the years I was in the lab. In lab, I was sitting in the dark room watching myocytes contract, or killing mice and cutting off pieces of their ear or tail.

JC: Interesting… I didn’t get to kill mice but I got to skin a few dead ones for primary fibroblasts. It was rather traumatic; for the mice too, no doubt. How’s traveling for you, now?

BL: I live in a hub-city so I’m “going direct to wherever, baby!”


What motivates a medical science liaison to seek a new position – and critically, once the MSL has sent in the resignation – “should I accept that counteroffer?”

Tom Bramswig, Pharmaceutical Careers.

Question: What motivates a medical science liaison to seek a new position?

Answer: A medical science liaison may prospect a new position for various reasons, including

  • Immediate Career Advancement – You move up the corporate ladder and receive greater responsibilities and authority.

  • Future Career Advancement – You are positioning yourself in a situation that will open up future doors. The gratification is not immediate, but you feel it’s the right step to the position you really want. This may include a change in therapeutic areas or job skills.

  • Financial Rewards – You see an immediate gain in salary and, after all, you deserve it.

  • Location – Time to move closer to your family or to a warmer climate.

  • Intangibles- It all feels right. Everything adds up to making the change.

One of the things I have learned in all my years of recruiting is, you can’t have it all. Don’t expect to achieve all of your goals in one career move. This next move probably won’t be your last! I often tell candidates to be patient. A career is not built overnight.

Question: Counter Offers – Should I accept that counter offer?

Answer: Let’s begin with the simple answer, “No.”

Before you announce that you’re leaving, analyze why you were motivated to look for a new position. One does not go through the pains of an interview process, if there isn’t an important underling reason. What is lacking in your present position that brought you to this point? Was it purely a financial concern? If so, did you first talk with your present supervisor and exhaust all internal possibilities of getting a salary increase. Was it a lack of challenge in present responsibilities? If so, have you discussed with your present employer that you are ready for additional responsibilities and challenges? If they are receptive, work out a reasonable time frame in which these changes will be implemented and stick to it. The truth is, most times it’s a combination of factors that leads you to seek a change, even just needing a new environment.

Jump ahead. The day arrives when you go to your supervisor and tender your resignation. The pleads begin and they express what a loyal and trusted employee you are and how they do not want to lose you. The reason you give for leaving, which they already know, is upward mobility with a nice increase in salary. Your employer states “before you resign, let me see what I can do”. He quickly runs to his VP and a meeting is set with HR. Under the pressure of your resignation and project deadlines, they agree to increase your salary and revamp your job description.

Now ask yourself, why are they now being so accommodating and how long will it be until they resent the fact you put them in this position? Could the future payback be a “past-over” promotion or your position being eliminated?

Keep in mind that one of the highest honors a company can give an employee is an offer letter. It says they want you. A resignation letter from an employee to the company says one thing: I don’t want to be here anymore. Both actions are never forgotten. Give your present company every opportunity before you seek external positions. Every textbook written on the topic of counter-offers will agree… once you make the decision to leave, don’t ever look back.

Tom Bramswig is President and Senior Recruiter of [url=]Pharmaceutical Careers[/url] (PO Box 124, Pleasantville, NY 10570.) Tom joined Pharmaceutical Careers in 1985 and has brought his experience in H.R. staffing from Wyeth-Ayerst Pharmaceuticals (American Home Products) and Philip Morris, Inc. You may reach Tom at (914) 769-1400 or email him at .