This post focuses on the role of the medical writer in advisory board planning.

So what is an advisory board?

  • An advisory board is a meeting to which a group of subject-matter experts (usually qualified healthcare professionals) are invited by the client (usually a pharmaceutical or biotechnology company) to provide strategic advice that will inform the company’s marketing, research, educational activities, and other brand planning efforts
  • The term “advisory board” is often shortened to “ad board”
  • Clients often conduct advisory boards in response to:
    • Changes in the brand (eg, label updates)
    • Changes in the competitive landscape (eg, a competitor drug comes to market)
    • Changes in the treatment landscape (eg, the paradigm of care evolves)
  • The subject-matter experts (usually healthcare professionals) are called “advisors”
  • The goal of an advisory board is to engage advisors in discussion and gather their feedback. It is NOT to educate them on the brand or disease landscape. However, information and clinical data are often shared at an advisory board in order to level set the advisors and help facilitate the discussions

The role of the medical writer in advisory board planning:

A typical advisory board project takes 12 weeks to plan from start to finish. Throughout this time, the medical writer takes on several roles, all aimed at helping the client plan the meeting so as to maximize the value obtained from it. Some typical medical writer tasks during the planning and development of an advisory board are outlined in the table below. It is important to note that the medical writer does not work in isolation. Each task may involve collaboration with the client or other team members

TaskWhat It InvolvesCollaboratorTiming
Clinical “deep dive”Taking time to understand the brand’s situationThe client will often provide the background materials and/or brand planning slidesOften done at the very beginning of the project and involves a deep dive into the brand’s objectives and data related to the brand
ObjectivesDeveloping the meeting objectivesInternal peer or manager review; client review and sign-offDeveloped within the first week of the project
Agenda Designing the meeting formatInternal peer or manager review; client review and sign-off; sometimes the chairperson (doctor) will provide input into the agendaDeveloped ~2 weeks into the project
Discussion questionsIdentifying discussion questions; these questions are often included in the slide deckInternal peer or manager review; client review and sign-off; sometimes the chairperson (doctor) will provide input into the best way of phrasing the questions in a manner that is most conducive to a discussion among physiciansOften developed in conjunction with the agenda
Moderator guideCreating the moderator’s guide; this is a detailed step-by-step playbook of the meeting day outlining who is doing what at each time point during the day as well as what questions will be asked and probes to drill deeper into certain questionsInternal peer or manager review; client review and sign-offDeveloped 2-3 weeks into the project
Slide deck or showfileCreating a slide deck containing the information that will be presented at the meetingInternal peer or manager review; client review and sign-off; the chairperson should review the slides – oftentimes, he/she will develop slides for presentation at the meetingDeveloped 4 weeks into the project
Live meetingAttending the meeting; participating in slide review; making last-minute revisions to the content; taking notes during the meeting (to be used in the executive summary)The medical writer attends along with other team members such as an account manager and a logistics manager; the client will also be in attendance with other select members from the sponsoring companyIdeal to have ~12 weeks’ lead time before the live meeting (for logistics and content planning)
Executive summarySynthesizing feedback from the advisors and utilizing this feedback to develop recommendations that the client may use to guide their future brand planning efforts


This may be in PPT or Word format


The client may request a topline summary, which involves identifying key takeaways from the advisors related to the meeting objectives


The full executive summary is significantly longer than the topline summary and provides a detailed summary of the feedback; also aligned to the meeting objectives

Internal peer or manager review; client review and sign-offTopline summary may be developed within a week from the live meeting (if requested by the client)


Full executive summary is typically delivered 2 weeks after the meeting