Medical Affairs Excellence: Size of MSL Teams


As the Medical Affairs’ function continues to evolve, leaders must constantly reevaluate how they structure and staff this critical function. In order to truly enhance organizational effectiveness, leading healthcare companies must find the ideal staffing levels to run sleek and efficient Medical Affairs departments.

During our recent 2nd Medical Affairs’ Consortium Roundtable, executives from leading pharmaceutical & medical device organizations discussed the importance of having the proper MSL team size. Here are some of the key findings from the study and discussion:

  • Reasons for Aligning MSL Teams: “Number of Thought Leaders” needed and “Frequency of Interaction with Thought Leaders” are the most common internal stakeholder needs that drive MSL alignment. 76% of the Mature Markets segment companies & 70% of the Emerging Markets segment companies align their MSL numbers according to these needs.
  • Ratio of Managers to MSLs: Nearly ½ of the Mature Markets segment companies use “1 manager to ≤ 6 MSLs ratio compared to 43% of the Emerging Markets segment companies.
  • Factors By Which Leaders Determine How Many MSLs to Put Into the Field: Nearly ½ of the Mature Markets segment uses “Corporate Commitment to an Over-Arching Franchise” and “Product Life Cycle Plan” to determine the appropriate number of MSLs. On the other hand, more than ½ of the Emerging Markets segment use “Target Ratio of Specialists To Number of Thought Leaders” to make such a determination. 

While understanding the ideal size of MSL teams is important for success, acquiring the right talent is absolutely crucial for a strong MSL team. As one interviewed Vice President mentioned,

“The practical reality is who and how we hire people and the people we have, how do we train and manage them. In the world of the past it was about deep scientific knowledge expertise and the ability to interact at an individual peer to peer level. That is still there but the scope of the role has expanded.” 

Featured below are the key responsibilities & skills required for a strong MSL team. Choosing capable talent and building the right field-based medical team competencies are critical to create a successful Medical Affairs function.




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