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A Cycle of Innovation and Education

Is the relationship between pharma companies and prescribers more synergistic — or symbiotic?

Many people would be surprised to learn that most of the new discoveries we’ve been seeing in medicine are made by private companies, not government laboratories as dramatized in the movies.

What I call the Cycle of Discovery is an emergent, self-sustaining dynamo resulting from pharmaceutical companies and doctors in a symbiotic relationship:  

  1. Companies research a disease/condition and develop novel treatments to disrupt the disease.
  1. Medical professionals are educated about the disease and disruption, as well as why the treatments work the way they do.
  1. Medical professionals prescribe drugs developed by the company, which demonstrate the most current research and progress in treating a particular disease.
  1. Sales from these drugs help to fund continuing research by the pharma company.  
  1. Rinse and repeat.

It’s a cycle of innovation and education — noteworthy not only for its capitalistic nature, but also because no other organization would be making the same discoveries.

The job of educating practitioners about new breakthroughs in treatments is accomplished with the help of leaders in the field. Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) are well known members of the medical community who are regarded as resources by their colleagues. Pharmaceutical companies engage KOLs as information conduits between the company and the medical community.

KOLs frequently find themselves at medical congresses, as well as standalone panels and workshops. Events like these have always been relatively easy ways to reach specialized audiences, like medical practitioners. Pharmaceutical companies sponsor educational events which provide Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits and doctors are required to earn a certain number of CME credits each year — so attending a credit-bearing workshop is a win-win for them and their patients.

Doctors don't have much time to learn new stuff —  animations at these workshops take months to produce, with all hands helping to boil down various MODs and Mechanisms of Action (MOAs) into easily understood vignettes. The end product is often still too clinical for consumers, but perfect to educate doctors — and help them make decisions and inform their patients.

Originally published: 04/06/2023

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