Charting MSL Activity and Performance (2017)

Maximum Purchase:
1 unit
Publication Date:
May 2017
Report (PPT), Data Tabulations (XLS), Questionnaire (PDF)
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A unique survey-based report providing key insights and actionable intelligence about MSL activity and performance.

Charting MSL Activity and Performance (2017) distils key findings from one of the most comprehensive surveys of US and EU5 Medical Science Liaison (MSL) personnel. Informed by the responses of 100 MSLs working in top pharma companies, the study identifies critical variations in MSL activity and performance measurement.

Building on the ground-breaking 2015 study, this 2017 version provides comparative analysis to show how priorities and practice have changed over the past two years and where MSLs see further change in the future.

Order today to gain insights on how to benchmark your MSL plans and prioritise engagement techniques used by leading pharma companies.

Executive Summary


MSL Activities

  • Individual MSLs in the US support three brands on average, while their counterparts in the EU support two brands, mostly at the national level. Some companies begin to assign MSLs as early as preclinical development in the US or at Phase I in the EU, but most teams are assembled during Phases II and III. The number of MSLs involved at the earlier stages of development is relatively small, rising during Phase III and then increasing significantly at launch and during the launch year. There has been a shift towards earlier discussions with KOLs over the last two years, with significantly more MSLs reporting the conversations beginning at the preclinical stage or Phase I.
  • In both the US and EU, “meeting in person with KOLs and other physicians,” “responding to inquiries from KOLs and other physicians” and “delivering scientific presentations to KOLs and other physicians” are considered primary responsibilities for MSLs at the pre-launch stage. In 2017, nearly one third of MSL teams viewed “delivering promotional presentations to stakeholders other than healthcare professionals” to be either a primary or secondary responsibility, which is a significant shift compared with 2015.
  • Post-launch, primary responsibilities include “building new relationships with KOLs and other physicians,” “delivering scientific presentations to KOLs and other physicians,” and “providing internal stakeholders with feedback and insight from KOLs.” A primary responsibility for MSL teams in the EU also includes “training internal sales forces,” but more than half of the US MSL teams do not perform this function.
  • Both US and EU MSLs spend around half their time in face-to-face meetings with KOLs and other physicians, compared with other forms of interaction such as telephone, email or live online chats. Interaction with patient advocacy groups is viewed as a growing responsibility, with just under one quarter of MSLs already participating and more expecting to do so in the future, particularly in the US.

MSL Performance Measurements

  • MSLs tend to communicate details of field activities to MSL and brand teams frequently. There has been a shift towards more frequent team meetings in both the US and EU in the last two years.
  • Quantitative metrics are by far the most common measures of MSL performance; the most widely used measurement is the “number of KOLs visited in a month/quarter.”
  • Qualitative measures, such as medical insights gathered from KOLs and physicians and feedback from KOLs, are being more frequently used in the US, although this trend does not appear to be reflected in the EU.
  • In the post-launch period, commonly used measures of external activities in the US include the “number of effective interactions with payers,” while the “size of attendance at congresses/CMEs” is a more common metric in the EU.

Value Demonstration to Internal Stakeholders of MSL Performance Measurements 

  • The qualitative measures, “medical insights gathered from KOLs and physicians” and the “depth and quality of relationships with KOLs,” are deemed to be the most critical for demonstrating the value of MSLs to internal stakeholders. The “size of attendance at congresses/CMEs” has greater importance in the EU than the US.
  • MSLs from both the US and EU agree that qualitative measures such as “medical insights,” “feedback from KOLs” and “depth and quality of relationships with KOLs,” as well as “proactive interactions” are expected to become increasingly important measures of performance in the future.

©Doctor’s Guide Publishing Limited. This executive summary is provided for commercial evaluation purposes only. It can be shared with colleagues for this purpose but cannot be reproduced, extracted or published without the express permission of the publisher.

Example of companies that participated in this study


Gain Answers to Critical Questions

Report Deliverables

  • At what drug development stage is an MSL team established, how many brands do they handle and how does this differ between the US and Europe?
  • How do MSL performance measurement criteria change pre to post launch?
  • Building new KOL relationships is a critical post launch activity, but what outcomes are sought and how is success measured?
  • To what extent do US and European views differ on MSL activity in CME, medical congress attendance, investigator initiated trials and on the provision of support to physicians in relation to patient access and patient education?
  • What performance criteria do MSL experts see as becoming increasingly important over the near term and how has this changed in the last 2 years?
  • How many and at what frequency do MSLs contact KOLs/Physicians and what is the most popular means of communication? 
  • How has the rise of new stakeholders changed the way MSL performance is measured?
  • What metrics are companies using to demonstrate MSL value?

Your report purchase gives you access to unique data and analysis you can use practically to shape MSL plans and hone performance measurement:

  • Data Study: Over 100 clear and concise charts that depict the current state and future outlook for MSL activity and performance assessment
  • Data Tabulations: All the survey data provided in MS Excel
  • Survey Questionnaire: delivered as a PDF document


Key Takeaways

  • Understand which MSL activities are seen as being most important in the US and Europe
  • Benchmark your own MSL activity plans and identify new ways to improve performance
  • Understand thinking in key areas such as KOL engagement, medical congress attendance and investigator initiated trials
  • Examine how US/European MSLs view the value of delivering scientific presentations to KOLs and physicians, and learn about the decline of this activity in the US
  • Identify the most widely used measurements for evaluating MSL-KOL engagement and feedback
  • Know which performance metrics are preferred for demonstrating value to internal stakeholders
  • Learn how thinking towards measuring MSL performance has changed over the past 2 years
  • Understand the current balance between quantitative and qualitative metrics used to measure
  • MSL performance, and assess signals that may indicate a change in the metrics used in future

About the Survey

watch-yellow.jpgInterview Methodology:
Data collected via a 25-minute internet-based questionnaire

sc.jpgScreening Criteria:
Respondents were screened to ensure that they are MSLs or MSL managers / directors who work at a pharmaceutical company ranked in the top 100 by revenue

sampledis.jpg Sample Distribution:
A total of 100 US-/EU5-based MSLs and MSL managers/directors who work for pharmaceutical companies ranked in the top 100 by revenue

Features of the Survey – Not Available Elsewhere

  • Knowledgeable and detailed insights from 100 senior MSLs in the US and Europe.
  • Practical ideas for improving MSL effectiveness and increasing KOL engagement
  • Valuable benchmarking indicators to assess your MSL programme against peers
  • Critical insights for corporate management needing to ensure effective physician communication, engagement and brand support
Benchmark your MSL plans and activities >

Table of Contents


MSL Activities

  • Number of Brands Supported and Areas of Responsibility
  • Assignment of MSLs to Brands and Discussion of New Products with Physicians
  • MSL Pre-Launch and Post-Launch Activities
  • Numbers and Methods of Interactions With Physicians
  • Time Spent on Proactive vs. Reactive Engagement

MSL Performance Measurements

  • Internal Communication Frequency and Format
  • Performance Measurements Used to Evaluate MSLs
  • Methods to Gather Information on External Value Metrics
  • Frequency of Performance Review

Value Demonstration to Internal Stakeholders of MSL Performance Measurements

  • Usefulness of MSL Performance Measurements in Value Demonstration
  • Expected Changes in MSL Performance Measurements in Value Demonstration


  • Screeners – MSL profile

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