QWhat is an MSL and what can an MSL do for me as a Health Care Provider?
Medically reviewed on 11.1.2022 by Mark Lebwohl, MD
The position of Medical Science Liaison (MSL) was created in 1967 by Upjohn Pharmaceuticals. Upjohn recognized an unmet need for a scientifically trained professional to provide medical clinicians scientific evidence on diseases and therapies, as well as various therapeutic areas of research. The term Medical Science Liaison has been synonymous with Medical Liaison, Medical Manager, Regional Scientific Manager, Clinical Liaison, and Scientific Affairs Manager among others – but the current trend is to use the term MSL – Medical Science Liaison.
The MSL serves as a Scientific peer, a resource for scientific information, and scientific expert. They ensure products (devices, therapies, or medications) are utilized safely and effectively. They work to develop and build rapport with Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) and ensure that the KOL has the key information pertinent to a product/device/therapy (i.e., clinic study information, articles, other scientific data). It is not a sales or marketing position as the information they provide is unbranded, and they can speak to a broad range of therapies/data, not just information for the company they represent.
Think of an MSL like a ‘personal shopper’ for conditions in which you have a particular interest. This can include products/medication/devices, studies, pipeline for upcoming medications, conference highlights, articles or reference materials (including ones that are harder to access or require payment). They can also serve as a connection to top Thought Leaders (KOLs) for medication, medical conditions, and clinical pearls. They can even help you expand your network, find a mentor, or identify leadership opportunities within your therapeutic area or professional societies.
In the past, and MSL could only be reactive – meaning an MSL could only respond to you if you asked for medical information or an off-label scientific question. Now MSLs can be proactive and engage you with disease state discussions or unbranded info.
An MSL can help you with finding information if you are writing an article to submit to a journal. They can help you navigate the research model if you want to be involved in research, including post hoc publications, case studies, and investigator lead research opportunities. They will help connect you with educational grants for CME – especially if a start-up conference is trying to drum up support for a new educational offering. Additionally, MSLs can host journal club meetings, provide disease state awareness presentations, or can educate office staff on product storage and use best practices. They can initiate an Advisory Board to present data and MOA unbranded education or can arrange for a KOL to present unbranded information on disease state, disease pathways and MOA. They can also help you identify opportunities to be involved with publications, ad boards, or speaking opportunities with their company.
Engaging with your MSL usually requires direct initiation from the health care provider side. Some Pharma companies require the Provider to initiate the contact, while other companies allow the MSL to proactively reach out to you. Alternatively, you can ask the Pharmaceutical Representative for the MSL contact info and either call or send an email. By asking a clinical question of the Pharm Rep (medical information request) the Rep will then turn in the question over to the MSL who will then engage you.
Often, at conferences, an MSL will staff a booth for a medical product that is still in the development stage. Some industries have a ‘find my MSL’ option on their web page. Leadership of society organizations often have the MSL contact information for their practice area and can direct you to the MSL in your practice area.
How often to meet face-to-face or by phone call is really up to you, but at least twice a year is the usually the minimum. You may choose to do this more frequently depending on your needs, especially when therapies are in the development stage or about to be approved. In short, the MSL is an invaluable scientific resource for you. Pick a medical condition or therapy for which you want more in-depth information and then reach out to the Pharmaceutical Company to engage them.
- MSL Science Liaison Society et.al. The history behind the Medical Science Liaison role. Themsls.org 2022: 1
- Baker DL. The role of the Medical Science Liaison in Industry. AORN J. 2010 Mar;91(3) 394-398