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‘Pharmaceuticals’ main mission is R&D, not marketing’Interview with Prof. Lee Dong-ho of Asan Medical Center
  • By Nam Doo-hyun
  • Published 2017.11.20 16:37
  • Updated 2017.11.20 16:37
  • comments 0

One can find quite a few people working not just in multinational pharmaceutical companies but in the domestic drugmakers, based on their careers as “medical doctors.” People call them “medical science liaison (MSL).” There are criticisms, however, the role of MSL within pharmaceutical companies is focused too much on marketing.

Among such critics is Professor Lee Dong-ho of the Asan Medical Center in Seoul, who majored in clinical pharmacology medicine and anesthesia pain medication, and has worked in various fields, including clinical medicine and the government’s R&D projects. He worked as a professor at Hanyang University School of Medicine, served as a vice president at GSK and the general manager of Samyang Pharmaceutical Corp.’s medicinal business headquarters. Lee also served as the first head of the Korea Drug Development Fund, an interagency project, from 2012-14, helping it establish R&D support system. Now he has returned to the clinical field, striving to train young doctors.

Professor Lee Dong-ho of Asan Medical Center emphasizes the role of Medical Science Liaison should shift from marketing to research and development, in a recent interview with Korea Biomedical Review.

“Many doctors at the pharmaceutical companies have been assigned to jobs supporting marketing,” Professor Lee said in an interview with Korea Biomedical Review, while pointing out more of them should provide help for research and development fields.

“Korean pharmaceutical companies should also pay more attention to how they use their doctors. They often use doctors for promoting sales or business development for colleagues,” Lee said. "In that situation, doctors cannot give much help to R&D areas."

Professor Lee emphasized doctors themselves should develop R&D ability, along with the change of perception on the part of the pharmaceutical industry. "We need to diversify our medical curriculum, which is only focused on developing their ability to treat patients, so that these students can have opportunities to go into research or industrial fields as well," he said.

Professor Lee said, “The world needs a generalist who has specialist backgrounds. In other words, it needs doctors who can work as general managers or planners.”

In order for doctors to work as strategic planners in the pharmaceutical and bio-industry, they need to know the trends of global healthcare and diseases in addition to their respective hands-on experiences, Lee pointed out.

"Only when we can understand the trends of basic science and medicine worldwide, and share feedback from the developers of the medical field, can we get excellent items. Some excellent doctors follow the global trend in our country, but in many cases, they are sticking to the medical fields. That is why these doctors fall short of giving industrial advice, '' he said.

He also pointed out that the government should invest in fundamental research R&D for the long run, instead of focusing on trendy products.

"Most important is the consistency of government policies. When the areas of silent research correspond to worldly interests, they can lead to commercial success,” he said. "It takes an average of 30 years for an idea from basic research to be commercialized. The biggest problem with Korea’s R&D investment is the 'can't wait.’”

Lee showed expectations, however, that the government's policies are changing. He cited as an example the recent announcement by the Ministry of Science and ICT that it would unify R&D projects dispersed among several ministries, through launching a “special bio committee.”

“I hope the unified panel will solve problems of overlapped supports,” Professor Lee said. "The ideas from scientists in their 30s and 40s were also very good. It seems as if Korea is now at the starting line of developing innovative new drugs.”


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