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Outsourcing Medical Communications

By Clayton Luz

Pharmaceutical, biotechnology and life science companies are enjoying substantial cost savings from outsourcing their medical communication needs. As a business strategy, outsourcing is an increasingly popular vendor model that can save money while delivering high-quality documents within time and budget constraints.

What are the benefits of outsourcing your company’s medical writing communication?

Reduces payroll costs

Companies that have modest budgets and produce fewer publication products should consider outsourcing services to avoid the cost of staffing in-house medical writers. Cost-savings can be realized by eliminating or reducing expenses associated with payroll, medical insurance, vacation time, and workers’ compensation.

Allows flexibility

Outsourced services create flexibility for some companies unable or unwilling to afford the cost of maintaining an in-house writing staff. “Bigger companies are producing upward of six to 70 manuscripts. That’s enough to keep a writing department busy,” says Ryan McGuire, research team leader with Cutting Edge Information, a benchmark research company that studies best practices in biopharmaceutical management. But other companies may not have that budget luxury. As a company’s compound makes its way through the clinical pipeline, publication demands predictably fluctuate. A vendor model helps them to manage peak workflow demands, says McGuire. “Rather than staffing a team of medical writers to draft journal articles irregularly throughout the year, companies could retain that talent only when necessary,” he says. Vendor cans also help a company “ramp up and ramp down its production” depending on workflow demands. Whatever a company’s size, outsourcing can result in cost-savings that can add to the bottom line.

Leverages core competency

In many cases, vendors now house the most experienced medical writers and statisticians. “An experienced medical writer brings a wealth of knowledge about how to structure thought, present information effectively and guide you through the documentation process,” says Julia Forjanic Klapproth, PhD, former two-time president of the European Medical Writers Association (EMWA). For many smaller companies, medical writing is not a core competency. Their focus may be research and development, analytics and market research. Outsourcing allows a company to hire skilled medical writers who are experienced and skilled at presenting the information at the correct level to the target audience.

If you think no one reads the documentation, you’re sadly mistaken. The truth is that everyone turns to the documentation as soon as they need help. If they can’t find the answer (quickly and easily) in the documentation, they will a) be annoyed and b) call Support—a far more costly action for you.

Saves money through bundling of writing services

“Typically, companies look for vendors that can provide several activities for one combined price,” McGuire says. “For example, a vendor already writing manuscripts and abstracts will often pick up editing as well. They have staff on hand including staff writers and editors.” Bundling writing, editing, abstract poster development services can offer significant cost savings.

Helps to honor deadlines

Companies often find that they can meet their deadline objectives through outsourcing. For example, a fast-track drug submission requires high-quality documents that avoid a rejection from FDA. For a drug company striving for a speedy submission, shortening the time their product reaches the marketplace can significantly impact their bottom line. According to Klapproth, “a well-written document communicates without the reader having to work at it, which ultimately reduces the time for assessors to review the documents.” i

Vendor familiarity breeds consistency

“Clinical teams benefit by having the same writers produce several, if not all, of the documents on a project because they become familiar with the background and strategy of the product. They know the details from across documents and can better ensure that subsequent documents are consistent with these,” according to Klapproth.

McGuire says that companies that stick with the same vendor or writer can avoid the expense of having to retrain new writers. “Biotech and pharma companies value consistency. Each company talks about its scientific platform, its basic scientific foundation. For example, one may use the word ‘salt,’ but another instead may use sodium chloride. Switching vendors during a phase 2 clinical trial may result in different language.” It helps to stick with a veteran writer who has worked with company in past, he adds.

iForjanic Klapproth J, Cutting Back: solutions to reduce the time and costs of clinical development, November 2009

About the Author

Clayton Luz is a veteran biomedical writer with over 25 years in the medical and pharmaceutical industries. You can connect with Clayton through Writing Assistance, Inc. at or by email at