Why Are Medical Staff Liasions’s Interactions Different?

May, 2024

At a bustling medical congress, the air is filled with anticipation as healthcare professionals (HCPs) and drug and device developers gather amidst a sea of gleaming exhibition stands, ready to hear the latest research and exchange learnings. But what could possibly go wrong?

Let’s review a recent UK Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA) case where an anonymous complainant questioned the role of medical science liaison (MSL) staff and healthcare professionals at a conference. The company concerned were not found in breach of these allegations. Therefore, what can other companies learn from this case?

Several key learnings emerged

Firstly, Medical affairs experts aim to foster informed care through knowledge sharing. While MSLs have a non-promotional role of responding to unsolicited medical queries, any interactions taking place at congresses where promotional teams are also present must comply with relevant promotional codes. Their activities and discussions in such contexts could be seen as promotional, regardless of job title or badge identification. Verbal and location identifiers may also help healthcare professionals and onlookers understand different staff’s scope and intent.

In this case, all staff attending the congress were briefed, and the briefing slides distributed. There was a global briefing on site as well as a UK briefing. When diverse teams operate across global and local functions, consistent messaging is critical.

Secondly, all staff, including MSLs, require thorough, mandatory training to clearly understand the scope and limitations of their roles. The company confirmed that MSLs had clear job descriptions and had ongoing and mandatory training to ensure they understood their role.

Thirdly, activities and locations for scientific exchange must be kept fully separate from promotional areas and branding. While the company provided evidence of separate medical and commercial booths, PMCPA noted MSLs’ physical access to all areas could still imply promotional involvement to observers. Remember, perception matters!

Finally, documentation is key. Firms must exhibit and prove high standards to avoid even the perception of disguised promotion among attendees. PMCPA found the complainant had not conclusively proven promotional misconduct in this instance. The company however, with their thorough documentation and planning, were able to demonstrate diligence and transparency.

Overall, pharmaceutical organisations and their representatives do well when they proactively consider stakeholder perception in all interactions. Companies and medical affairs specialists can thoughtfully engage at professional conferences while strictly honouring their distinct roles.  With judicious planning and conduct, they can participate meaningfully at academic meetings while strictly upholding ethical and regulatory standards. Transparent, diligent practice honours the integrity of medicine and builds trust between industry and the communities they strive to aid through collaboration and discovery.


  1. https://www.pmcpa.org.uk/cases/completed-cases/auth37081122-complainant-v-gsk/


Click TAGS to see related articles :


About the Author

  • Ravi Pawa

    Ravi Pawa, an executive medical leader, is passionate about improving patient outcomes through her extensive experience in vaccines, general & cardiovascular medicine, medical affairs, governance, and late-phase clinical trials across the UK and Europe. Ravi has transformed medical groups, through empowering toward medical excellence and embracing digital strategies. Her talent for navigating complexity and fostering collaboration has turned dysfunctional environments into models of productivity, whilst significantly improving medical governance and compliance. She has been instrumental in integrated launch initiatives and establishing trusted relationships with key stakeholders, underpinned by a patient-focused and data-driven approach. Ravi is deeply committed to education and development having served as an appraiser, Educational Supervisor, and ARCP reviewer with the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine.

    Director, Pawa Medical

Pin It on Pinterest