Key opinion leaders should be guides and counsels, not company junkies
From somewhere in my past I half remember the story of the mongoose and the snake.
I am not sure, but it was by either Rudyard Kipling or D.H. Lawrence.
Though I think D.H. Lawrences snake was sunning itself, and D.H. threw a stick at it.
Anyway, it got me thinking about the relationship between a pharmaceutical company and its KOLs.
We need KOLs, and we should rightly be a bit wary of each other, preserve a bit of distance.
This relationship came into the sunshine last year, quite literally, when the US government, with the Sunshine act, began to question whether KOLs, and physicians in general, were declaring their earnings from all the work they were doing for pharmaceutical companies.
And this made me think of Al Capone.
You probably know, he was not undone for activities on 14th February, but for tax evasion.
In the same way, pharmaceutical companies learned about the requirement to track and declare expenditure on specialists, and this has forced them to re-examine how they work with KOLs.
The reaction of some of my colleagues has been entertaining.
They feel affronted, because the nice, cozy relationship is now threatened.
Well guess what? The Key Opinion Leader is supposed to have an opinion, and it is supposed to enlighten the company.
You should listen to him, but whether you choose to follow his advice is up to you.
He probably knows the disease well, but I hope you know your drug better.
When that relationship becomes too close, he loses his objectivity and ceases to be a valuable guide and counsel.
He also prejudices his value to the community; he becomes a company junkie.
He ceases to be an advisor and becomes a hired hand.
Others in the community will not respect him, so his opportunities for the stage will dry up.
At the same time, he has grown accustomed to business travel and four-star hotels.
He likes to bring his children with him, so the pressure is on for him to get ever closer to the company, until he is almost married.
So wise up. You should feel comfortable to have the relationship in the Sunshine.
And hopefully, no one will throw a stick at you.
For exclusive business insights into KOLs, attend KOL and Stakeholder Engagement Europe 2012 on February 21-22, 2012 in Berlin.
For more articles on KOLs, see Special report: KOLs and pharma.
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