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Blog October 27, 2022
3 min read

Unlocking the Power of KOLs in the Pharmaceutical Industry: From Expert Advisors to Influential Game Changers

In the pharmaceutical industry, Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) play a pivotal role in drug development and market performance. Explore how KOLs influence prescribing patterns, disseminate information, and drive adoption through traditional and digital channels.

It is now becoming increasingly obvious that overall global health can be improved not just by developing drugs and vaccines to manage health but also by ensuring that when treatment options are available, the information is relayed to the prescribers and patients in an unbiased manner so that there is increased adoption. In the pharmaceutical industry, Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs)   highly respected for their expertise in specific therapeutic areas, play a key role across the drug lifecycle – ranging from drug discovery, analyzing treatment outcomes, to driving R&D efforts and helping with adoption. These pharma ‘influencers’ wield significant influence over the process and outcome of drug development and marketing. 

Key Opinion Leaders: Pharma-Influencers or more?

KOLs are usually researchers in a particular therapeutic area, they may be editors or contributors to key journals, may hold offices in professional associations and are frequent presenters at conferences. Traditionally, KOLs helped disseminate information through publications, speaker programs conducted by pharmaceutical companies, conferences organized by the government or professional associations, seminars etc. However, in the current digital era, they also share their opinions through blog posts, digital news articles, social media, or webinars.

Due to their strong pedigree and professional stature, KOLs exert a strong influence over other Health Care Professionals (HCPs). Their assessment of various treatment options influences the prescribing patterns of HCPs and in many cases tends to influence patient behavior as well.

Role of KOLs at various stages of the Drug Lifecycle

Figure 1: Role of KOLs at various stages of the Drug Lifecycle

As KOLs rise in prominence over the course of their career, their circle of influence expands to cover larger audiences of peers and patients. For the pharmaceutical industry, KOLs can therefore have an impact on the entire drug lifecycle, right from identifying unmet needs, to drug development, product launch, and market performance.

KOL Mapping, Identification and Profiling

Pharmaceutical companies generally have Medical Science Liaison (MSL) teams within the Medical Affairs group to build and nurture relationships with KOLs. Traditionally, KOLs are identified based on their academic background, professional affiliations, research, publications, and participation in conferences and events, all of which are lagging indicators while identifying KOLs i.e., these approaches help identify KOLs after they have risen in prominence and established their influence in professional communities.

There is a growing need to identify KOLs early and start building relationships with emerging KOLs early in their career.

At Tiger Analytics, we’ve used advanced analytics and a data-driven approach to help identify future KOLs by analyzing the research and publication activity of early-stage professionals. This helps pharmaceutical companies find Heath Care Professionals (HCPs) with whom they can start building relationships at a nascent stage in their careers so that these could potentially be leveraged when they become KOLs in the industry.

Our predictive algorithm uses PubMed data to identify KOLs. PubMed which comprises more than 33 million citations for biomedical literature from Medline, life science journals, and online books, also provides a historical snapshot of all research and publications for over fifty years.  Using this data, our algorithm maps out pathways that the current KOLs traversed to get to their current professional standing. 

In addition to this, we’ve built on the identification approach to then predict who among the current early-stage professionals is displaying the right ‘signals’ to potentially become future Key Opinion Leaders. 

This ability to predict future KOLs will help pharmaceutical companies to start engaging with potential KOLs very early in their career so that they can leverage their relationships to develop and launch successful products in the future – earning them the first-mover advantage over their competitors and peers. 

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