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The Ambiguity of the MSL

April 18, 2013

by admin

Medical Science Liaison Officer or MSL at work

For over a decade Talentmark have been placing MSLs in individual positions and team builds for leading pharmaceutical / biotech companies.

These are interesting roles to fill but if you were to ask a sample of people within the industry to define the core responsibilities of the role you would receive a number of different answers. In certain quarters MSLs are seen as ‘super reps’, individuals with specialist scientific training who are permitted to have a more open and communicative relationship with KOLs and relevant stake holders than the sales team. To others, many of them MSLs themselves, this idea is repellent. MSLs are predominantly PhD / Pharmacists whose role is to provide non promotional, unbiased scientific information (around their organisation’s drug portfolio) to the medical profession, decision makers, opinion leaders and academics.

Regardless of where you stand on this issue, we are living in an age where the role of the Medical Science Liaison is becoming an increasingly integral part of medical affairs strategy, particularly during late phase development and product launch. It is an interesting fact that the non promotional core of the role varies considerably from company to company – so much so that MSL purists will actively resign if forced to perform activities they deem ‘a commercial step too far’.

The evolution of the MSL provides an interesting juxtaposition to the increasingly tight legislative constraints that are now imposed on medical sales representatives who need to adhere to a strict code of conduct. The ABPI exam for sales representatives entails learning and committing to practice a number of DOs and DON’Ts around commercial responsibility which deliver a more harmonised standard of practice across the industry.

In order to protect and preserve the credibility of the MSL role should there be a similar accreditation whereby both MSLs and employers fully understand the role’s commercial limits? Would this not help the industry as a whole by erasing ambiguity? If “yes”, then how should the industry go about implementing such a scheme? From Talentmark’s perspective, the question highlights the importance of thoroughly understanding the role of the MSL within recruiting companies in order to ensure the best fit for all concerned.


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