About this Author
DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

Chemistry and Drug Data: Drugbank
Chempedia Lab
Synthetic Pages
Organic Chemistry Portal
Not Voodoo

Chemistry and Pharma Blogs:
Org Prep Daily
The Haystack
A New Merck, Reviewed
Liberal Arts Chemistry
Electron Pusher
All Things Metathesis
C&E News Blogs
Chemiotics II
Chemical Space
Noel O'Blog
In Vivo Blog
Terra Sigilatta
BBSRC/Douglas Kell
Realizations in Biostatistics
ChemSpider Blog
Organic Chem - Education & Industry
Pharma Strategy Blog
No Name No Slogan
Practical Fragments
The Curious Wavefunction
Natural Product Man
Fragment Literature
Chemistry World Blog
Synthetic Nature
Chemistry Blog
Synthesizing Ideas
Eye on FDA
Chemical Forums
Symyx Blog
Sceptical Chymist
Lamentations on Chemistry
Computational Organic Chemistry
Mining Drugs
Henry Rzepa

Science Blogs and News:
Bad Science
The Loom
Uncertain Principles
Fierce Biotech
Blogs for Industry
Omics! Omics!
Young Female Scientist
Notional Slurry
Nobel Intent
SciTech Daily
Science Blog
Gene Expression (I)
Gene Expression (II)
Adventures in Ethics and Science
Transterrestrial Musings
Slashdot Science
Cosmic Variance
Biology News Net

Medical Blogs
DB's Medical Rants
Science-Based Medicine
Respectful Insolence
Diabetes Mine

Economics and Business
Marginal Revolution
The Volokh Conspiracy
Knowledge Problem

Politics / Current Events
Virginia Postrel
Belmont Club
Mickey Kaus

Belles Lettres
Uncouth Reflections
Arts and Letters Daily
In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

In the Pipeline

« Live-Blogging Arena's FDA Committee Hearing | Main | Spread of the Pun Virus »

September 17, 2010

The Life of a Key Opinion Leader

Email This Entry

Posted by Derek

Here's an uncomplimentary look at the whole concept of "Key Opinion Leaders" in drug marketing. I think this part gets at the real reason many people agree to do this (and a lot of other things besides):

"It strokes your narcissism," says Erick Turner, a psychiatrist at the Oregon Health and Science University. There is the money, of course, which is no small matter. Some high-level KOL's make more money consulting for the pharmaceutical industry than they get from their academic institutions. But the real appeal of being a KOL is that of being acknowledged as important. That feeling of importance comes not so much from the pharmaceutical companies themselves, but from associating with other academic luminaries that the companies have recruited. Academic physicians talk about the experience of being a KOL the way others might talk about being admitted to a selective fraternity or an exclusive New York dance club. No longer are you standing outside the rope trying to catch the doorman's eye, waiting hungrily to be admitted. You are one of the chosen.

Although, as the piece makes clear, it's more about the life of not-quite-key opinion leaders. As with every club, there are inner rooms and outer rooms. . .

Comments (7) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Why Everyone Loves Us


1. Chemjobber on September 17, 2010 8:05 AM writes...

Oh, man, you left out the best part! From the article:

"Perhaps the most remarkable recent exchange with a KOL emerged in an investigation of Joseph Biederman, a child psychiatrist at Harvard University. In a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, Biederman was accused of promising positive research results to the company in exchange for funding. A hint of Biederman's self-opinion emerged in a deposition, where a lawyer asked him about his academic ranking.

Biederman: "To move in the ranks from one rank, for example, at Harvard, there is instructor, from instructor you move to assistant professor, from assistant professor you move to associate professor, from associate professor you move to full professor."

Lawyer: "Full professor?"
Biederman: "Mm-hmm."
Lawyer: "What rank are you?"
Biederman: "Full professor."
Lawyer: "What's after that?"
Biederman: "God."
Lawyer: "Did you say God?"
Biederman: "Yeah."

Permalink to Comment

2. Beige Parrot on September 17, 2010 8:37 AM writes...

@ Chemjobber

Thanks. That exchange made my day.

We had so many non-productive, out-in-left-field, non-relevant discussions with KOL's in my past large pharma life that we pitifully referred to them as Kooks-On-the-Loose.

Permalink to Comment

3. john on September 17, 2010 9:19 AM writes...

I quote Homer Simpson when I ask "but what about their hippopotamus oath"

Permalink to Comment

4. bad wolf on September 17, 2010 9:24 AM writes...

What was that Alec Baldwin movie with him as an MD on a witness stand? "You ask if I have a God complex? Let me tell you something... I am God."

Permalink to Comment

5. You're Pfizered on September 17, 2010 9:32 AM writes...


Permalink to Comment

6. Intruder alert on September 17, 2010 7:29 PM writes...

No commentary of Forest Lab's 300 million dollar hit??

Permalink to Comment

7. MIMD on September 20, 2010 3:37 PM writes...

A number of (non-complimentary) posts on KOL's can be seen at the Healthcare Renewal blog here.

Permalink to Comment


Remember Me?


Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):

The Last Post
The GSK Layoffs Continue, By Proxy
The Move is Nigh
Another Alzheimer's IPO
Cutbacks at C&E News
Sanofi Pays to Get Back Into Oncology
An Irresponsible Statement About Curing Cancer
Oliver Sacks on Turning Back to Chemistry