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Value Practices in the Life Sciences and Medicine$
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Isabelle Dussauge, Claes-Fredrik Helgesson, and Francis Lee

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199689583

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199689583.001.0001

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Key opinion leaders

Key opinion leaders

Valuing independence and conflict of interest in the medical sciences

(p.31) 2 Key opinion leaders
Value Practices in the Life Sciences and Medicine

Sergio Sismondo

Oxford University Press

The pharmaceutical industry uses some physicians, called key opinion leaders (KOLs), as intermediaries to influence prescribing physicians. One marketing firm, for example, says that ‘KOL’ is ‘a convenient shorthand for those people—usually eminent, usually physicians—who we co-opt into our development and marketing strategies’. This chapter describes evolving structures of KOL management, and the industry’s delicate balancing, both rhetorical and in practice, that allows it to influence or control the dissemination of medical knowledge while maintaining the value of that knowledge by allowing KOLs to appear independent. Meanwhile, KOLs themselves also tend to value both their conflicts of interest and their independence; the chapter explores how they can value both of these at once.

Keywords:   key opinion leaders, pharmaceutical industry, physicians, marketing, moral economy

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