A Medical Advisor provides a significant contribution to the evaluation, critiquing, and communication of important medical/scientific information related to a company's products. Medical Advisors assist clinical research teams and often help training and supporting the sales force.
Dr. Manthan Mehta, Medical advisor, Novartis is a Doctor of Medicine (M.D) focused in Pharmacology. He is an experienced medical advisor with a demonstrated history of working in the pharmaceutical industry.
Novartis is a leading global medicines company; who uses innovative science and digital technologies to create transformative treatments in areas of great medical need.
Medical advisor - a bridge between doctors and the company
Dr. Manthan explains, “I do get asked a lot by people like you're a doctor and then you're working for a pharmaceutical company. So what do you exactly do? So if I put it in a very simple way. A medical advisor is like a bridge, a bridge between doctors and the company, a bridge between patients at the top. They are the ones who will actually look at the unmet needs in the healthcare system in particular therapy areas, etc. actually gathers those insights and bring them forward and support to launch that particular therapy. That's how it probably touches upon the lives of multiple patients. I always tell people, if you ever feel like touching the Lives of millions of patients together, it's best if you become a medical advisor. To do it on the patient front, you see everybody's moving in a patient-centric direction today. If you look at medical guidelines, patients at the same time, all organizations that work, they're all moving in a direction where we want to put patients at the center, we are breaking the medical patriarchy. Today we advise patients or they may know how to choose for themselves, they know a lot, and it's our job to help them know better. With this plethora of information with Dr. Google coming in everywhere, I'm sure people can get the right source of information and these are the bits and pieces where a medical advisor works, they will help develop patient advocacy groups, websites, and patient supporting material. At the same time, they help in disseminating data between cities, we know that practicing physicians are extremely busy, particularly in the Indian market, we have a large population and OPDs running, there's not enough time to actually stay updated and that's again, a place where medical advisors help you make that data, put in a very simple form, you can have a peer to peer communication. So there is somebody who while supporting an organization, at the same time, will tell the doctors what is in the best interest of science. So that's how I would put the role of a medical advisor, they touch upon multiple aspects, commercial, model, and access,” he says.
Challenges faced by the doctors in India
Dr. Manthan shares his opinions, “There are multiple challenges. We stay in a place where policies keep changing every day, there's no uniformity when it comes to policies for medical education for practice, every state has different notes, you have lakhs of people passing out of MBBS and then you have a few 1000 seats for people to choose the specialty. Doctors are being incentivized to go to the rural areas, but at the same time, we do not have the necessary infrastructure there. Just to quote, I have a friend who secured a gold medal in cardiology, is posted in a rural set up somewhere in the interiors of Maharashtra, and does not have a cath lab. If he can’t perform angioplasty, what's the point of posting somebody there? Then you have them as soft targets everybody looks at that the doctors don't want to go to rural areas, they want the comfort of corporate hospitals, they want more money but it's really not that, I'm sure my engineer and CA friends are earning much more than I am today. So you are practicing in Maharashtra, you may have to serve government service for two years after your PG for somebody in the UP it would be 10 years so there is no uniformity at all in all those aspects right from their admissions to passing out. That's one front, the second front I think, we all agree as doctors and I think we are proud to say that we do come with a sense of moral responsibility, it's not a routine profession where there probably is a delete button right, it's you playing with lives to put it very simply, and people come with that obligation. We do understand that patients' needs come first; we want to do the best for our patients. Same time you've seen multiple reports where doctors are being hit by a mob, fear all the time fighting for better security, better laws and the moment doctors strike, there is an issue. But people don't look at the basics that we want. We do understand that if we declare a patient dead, the relatives are not going to take it well but hitting the doctor is no solution. But since they form a smaller part of the population, and the protests are probably not to that extent, people take it lightly. And eventually, even if things don't happen, doctors feel that we don't want patients to suffer, we can’t keep postponing surgeries, let the government do its job, today or tomorrow, they'll help us out. But you're still the scapegoat for the media, which is again, very easy to put across. Another would probably be Cross fit, which again is very common in India. The IMA went on strike last Friday; it's not that one stream of medicine is against the other, but it's just about, the peer comparison, you're not comparing apples to oranges, you have people who put in a lot more of their years in practice, and then you suddenly have somebody who has not done as. As an allopathic doctor, I wouldn't be prescribing any herbal medicine, everybody has a right to their choice of the line of medicine method, but when you start cross-linking them, it comes down to policy again, so, challenges are multifold,” he says.
Healthcare development of rural India
Dr. Manthan sheds light on the subject, “I think that's one point where we are moving in a good direction. And I was fortunate enough to attend one of the events where there was a health policy assessment group that the government had formed and thankfully COVID has made people more agile in terms of digital adoption. With a steep internet easily available in every nook and corner of the country, healthcare can be delivered fast. We do hear news of people not getting the right access to treatment in time because probably an ambulance didn't reach on time or they did not have the necessary infrastructure in the rural setups. But digitization can help telemedicine go a long way, when it comes to digital things today, the youth is moving in an era where everybody's developing apps for something or the other. I think we have this myth that people in rural areas don't understand much, they do understand better than us was just that they have a lack of exposure. We could give them that now and it's also about supporting the local community by working with them rather than working for them. We want them to work with us, we need rural volunteers, we need people who have these Anganwadi programs, which are doing wonders, so we've seen maternal mortality come down, we’ve seen childhood nutrition improving, etc. These are areas where we can just probably have an app that could tell people what to do, which will help them the regional languages, you could have doctors coming in talking to them, and go help everyone, you could set up smaller pieces and you have absolute can lead an ECG which could feed an X-ray, which has doctors there, you know, and then that is one place should really work in and not let them be okay, the government is not doing anything, why should we do something? NGOs that can help there are a lot of public-private partnerships that can work in this domain. And I think we have a lot to do,” he says.
COVID – a blessing in disguise
Dr. Manthan explains, “It's been disruptive, and while we would appreciate a lot of these digital things going on and I think a lot of digitization can help in connecting people, peer to peer, doctors can connect with each other from across the country, across the globe and they can connect with patients as well. However, there needs to be a digital etiquette that probably will develop over time and people would move to a hybrid model, we still read posts on social media where patients are not willing to pay saying it's a digital consult and not actually examine me and why should I pay you? There have to be both folds, when you travel to a hospital, the doctor travels through the app or through virtual call and if you do the virtual consult, it might not work both ways. So, a lot of things I think will be moved towards normal, physical plus digital. We are seeing fast track approvals for a lot of regulatory frameworks changing a lot of emergency use drugs being approved. That can happen, which you've not seen for many years. While a lot of chunks will go digital, it's not that it will completely go away. But it has revolutionized things, doctors, patients, and regulators that accepted digital, and we have a way to do things forward. So I think that probably a blessing in disguise,” he says.
(Edited by Rabia Mistry Mulla)