This year, the Medical Affairs Professional Society (MAPS) returned in person to New Orleans, in a grand style that only this city could deliver. This year’s theme, “From Vision to Action”, was evident throughout the sessions and underscored the call to action for Medical Affairs professionals to lead, driven by science, data, and context, to increase their value to patients, healthcare professionals, and society.
MAPS was formed in 2016 with 50 members. The founders sought to build a society for Medical Affairs professionals that fostered collegial comradery where ideas could be exchanged and best practices shared. Today, MAPS has grown to over 8000 members and expects to expand to over 10,000 by 2023. This year’s meeting was attended by over 800 Medical Affairs professionals of whom over 40% had more than 15 years’ experience in Medical Affairs.
The generation of real-world data (RWD) and real-word evidence (RWE) were hot topics that were discussed not only in the sessions but also during many peer-to-peer conversations. There is a movement to generate RWD/RWE earlier in the product development process to help understand disease epidemiology and burden, to explore unmet needs that a new drug may address, and to better inform clinical endpoints, product labeling, and indication selection, among other variables. This approach is important because the traditional clinical trial endpoints that are required for regulatory approval may not translate into meaningful outcomes for patients. Through active patient engagement, patient-centered outcomes can be developed; once studied, these outcomes can ultimately complement traditional clinical trial data, inform the medical strategy, shape the value proposition, and facilitate optimal market access. The usefulness of generating RWD/RWE earlier has been particularly evident for rare diseases, but this approach is increasingly becoming applicable to most therapeutic areas.
There was also great interest and discussion on how insights funneled through Medical Affairs can inform the medical strategy. Technological breakthroughs have granted us the ability to gather many insights from various sources, including cross-functional field teams and social listening tools. However, the challenge with these large listings is that they are without informed context nor are they aligned with the medical strategy. This is an area where Medical Affairs professionals are encouraged to apply their scientific, medical, and product knowledge to help organize and contextualize the insights to ensure that they are strategic, actionable, and can be further communicated to cross-functional teams.
While most people agree that the past 2 years of the pandemic have been challenging, the increased need for direct access to information and a new virtual environment have provided opportunities to elevate the role of Medical Affairs as direct communicators of scientific evidence to healthcare providers, patients, and society. Going forward, the goal of product success has moved beyond regulatory approval and toward a patient-centric model, focused on access and meaningful patient outcomes. At OPEN Health, our extensive and collective expertise in HEOR & Market Access, Medical Communications, and Omnichannel Strategy makes us well poised to assist Medical Affairs professionals in implementing this important call to action.