How to Create an Effective KOL Engagement Plan That Complies with Anti-Kickback Laws
In medical affairs, building and managing relationships with key opinion leaders (KOLs) is a critical component of successful product launches and long-term growth. But in today’s highly regulated environment, it is more important than ever to make sure that HCP engagement plans are compliant with anti-kickback laws.
Since KOLs play such a critical role, engaging with the right KOLs is a key strategy for pharmaceutical companies to stay ahead of the game. However, with strict regulations surrounding interactions between industry and healthcare professionals, compliance must be at the forefront of any KOL engagement plan.
In this blog post, we will explore why compliance is critical in medical affairs and how it can make or break successful KOL engagement strategies.
Why It Matters
A 2019 Benchmarking Study polled Medical Affairs professionals on the biggest hurdles that they face in developing a comprehensive KOL engagement strategy. Here is what they learned.
The four biggest hurdles to developing the strategy according to the study were:
Trusting pharma: product efficacy and safety, corporate
- Reputation and service quality
- Pharma engagement approach: transactional arrangement vs.Real relationship, multiple contact points
- Time and doctor/patient ratio
- Regulation: compliance, accountability, disclosure of compensation from pharma companies|
First and foremost, compliance is not simply a box to check off on a list of tasks. It is a vital component in building trust and maintaining ethical standards in the healthcare industry.
Compliance ensures that interactions between pharmaceutical companies and KOLs are transparent, fair, and free from any undue influence. It also protects patients from being exploited or misled by physicians who may be swayed by financial incentives.
Application of Compliance Laws for Medical Affairs
It’s important to understand the differences between anti-kickback laws and other relevant regulations. Anti-kickback laws are federal statutes designed to protect patients from paying more than necessary for medical services or devices by preventing physicians from receiving kickbacks or bribes in exchange for referring patients to certain providers or prescribing certain drugs. The U.S. government has also implemented additional anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws that apply to life sciences companies doing business abroad.
Federal anti-kickback laws and other anti-bribery and anti-corruption statutes play a significant role in shaping the landscape of KOL engagements. These laws are designed to prevent undue influence on medical decisions and to protect the integrity of patient care. They prohibit physicians from receiving kickbacks or bribes in exchange for referring patients to certain providers or prescribing specific drugs.
Non-compliance with these laws not only attracts hefty fines but can also severely damage the reputation of life sciences companies and harm public trust in their products and services.
Surfacing and Tiering KOLs Compliantly
Once you have identified which regulations apply to your organization, you can begin sourcing potential KOLs by leveraging internal networks such as the Medical Affairs team or external sources such as research studies and industry events as well as compliantly build KOL targets leveraging tech and data platforms.
The planning and execution of a KOL engagement strategy can be a complex process, with numerous considerations for compliance. For instance, the selection of KOLs should be based on objective criteria such as their expertise, influence in their medical community, and their potential to provide valuable insights. The compensation provided to KOLs should also be fair-market value for their time and effort, and not an inducement for them to prescribe or recommend specific products.
Furthermore, the interactions between life sciences companies and KOLs should be transparent and properly documented. Companies need robust systems in place to track and manage these interactions. This includes recording details such as the purpose of the interaction, the topics discussed, and any outputs or outcomes. This not only helps companies demonstrate their compliance with the laws but also allows them to evaluate the effectiveness of their KOL engagements.
Once you have identified an appropriate pool of potential KOLs, it’s important to create a tiered system for categorizing them based on their value proposition and potential impact on your organization’s goals. Tiering allows you to allocate resources more effectively by prioritizing those relationships that provide the most benefit while minimizing risk associated with noncompliance with laws like those mentioned above.
Ongoing Compliance Monitoring for Medical Affairs
Finally, it’s essential to establish processes for monitoring all engagements with KOLs so that any misconduct can be detected quickly and corrective actions taken if needed. This includes setting up systems for tracking payments made or received from these individuals as well as establishing protocols for ensuring compliance with any applicable code of conduct or ethical standard policies related to interactions with healthcare professionals (HCPs).
By following best practices outlined here – including understanding applicable laws, properly sourcing KOLs based on criteria pertinent to your organization’s situation, creating a tiered system for sorting them according to value proposition/potential impact on goals, and monitoring engagements closely – medical affairs teams can successfully create an effective HCP engagement plan while remaining compliant with all applicable rules and regulations.
For more information on how to build effective and compliant engagement plans, download our white paper: How AI Can Save Medical Affairs from Drowning in Data.