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Pre-launch KOL talks linked to 1.5-time boost to drug uptake

What is the key to success in the competitive migraine market? An analysis by Veeva Systems suggests medical science liaison (MSL) engagement with key opinion leaders (KOLs) may be part of the answer.

Veeva used data held in its systems to look at the marketing of migraine products from March 2019 to June 2023. The analysis covers a period in which companies including AbbVie, Biohaven—now part of Pfizer—Eli Lilly and Lundbeck won FDA approval for products to treat and prevent migraine, turning the indication into one of the most competitive in biopharma and a hotspot for marketing.

According to Veeva, steps taken before launch had a big effect on sales. The data shows companies that had MSLs engage with KOLs before product launch, either in person or via video, had 1.5 times greater treatment adoption across the opinion leaders’ healthcare organizations in their first six months on sale.

The positive effect of early KOL education by MSLs persisted after the initial launch period. Veeva found that new treatment starts were 1.3 times greater 18 to 24 months after product launch when MSLs laid the groundwork by engaging KOLs prior to a product coming to market. 

Lundbeck is an advocate of the approach. The company doubled sales of its migraine drug Vyepti last year. Christine Castro, director of medical affairs excellence at Lundbeck, popped up in Veeva’s news release to discuss the strategy.

“We can quickly identify who the relevant KOLs are, and organize those KOLs based on when and where they are sharing scientific information and what scientific information they are sharing. As we prepared for the launch of new treatments, this data-driven approach helped us build the right relationships and focus our resources where they will have the greatest scientific impact,” Castro said.

The Veeva data suggest other biopharma companies could make more use of KOLs. Per the data, 70% of KOLs engage with one biopharma company’s medical field team. Almost one-third of global experts have no recorded interactions with MSLs.