Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs), also called Key Thought leaders (KTLs), play a vital role for pharmaceutical companies during different stages of the drug life cycle. Pharmaceutical companies
collaborate with KOLs to identify new research areas or drugs and to conduct preclinical studies as well as clinical trials. KOLs are also involved in regulatory approval processes. Thus, KOLs are an important antecedent of market penetration of a new drug [Sandberg, 2002; Smith, 2009; Matikainen et al., 2015] and hence, sales representatives of pharmaceutical companies frequently engaging with KOLs for marketing their drugs in market is a common trend [Matikainen et al., 2015, Moynihan, 2008, Jureidini, 2012].
Each step of the drug life cycle is a costly affair andinvolves risk, either of not getting approval for launch or losing market share to competitors. Thus, selecting the right KOLs becomes vital for a pharmaceutical company. Pharmaceutical companiesspend on average 24% of their total marketing budgets on KOLs [Cutting Edge Information, 2004],and this turns out to be well invested: Targeting correct KOLs can increase the revenue ofpharmaceutical companies by as much as 18% [Nair et al., 2006].
The right KOLs for every situation
Different healthcare professionals (HCPs) act as KOLs at different stages of drug life cycle. During research stage, a pharmaceutical company will need scientific researchers with high research experience in the area of interest, while during drug launch, physicians with high influence across the community will act as KOLs. Thus, the very definition of KOLs is context-dependent, and so should be the process of finding them.