Subscribe to our newsletter

Industry Insight | 24th October 2018

GSK to reverse ‘no KOL’ policy – Why do Healthcare companies need KOLs?

Read Time: < 1 minute


Six years ago, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) was ordered to pay $3bn (£1.9bn), following the violation of a corporate integrity agreement where they promoted Advair off-label in the US. The top pharma company considered preventative methods and introduced an above call of duty ‘no Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs)’ companywide policy. 

KOLs influence can contribute to a range of areas of a product’s lifecycle, from research and development to supporting market access activities and even participating in medical education programmes.

Ultimately, KOLs have the power to increase the credibility of a product.  

The highly regulated world of healthcare marketing can be complex to navigate and seeking out relevant KOLs can be time-consuming. But, as GSK recently announced the reversal of their policy, it proves that KOL management plays an integral role in the marketing success of products within the healthcare sector and it’s a tactic that should not be overlooked.  

Upon making the announcement, GSK commented on the reversed policy:

“We believe this has led to a reduced understanding of our products and is, ultimately, restricting patients’ access to truly innovative medicines and vaccines.”

Despite the company’s concern of inappropriate influence, relying upon their own clinical experts did not bring about the desired results.  The reversal of the policy suggests an attempt to breathe life into the reported uninspired marketing efforts of the past years, with hope of achieving their end objective of helping people do more, feel better and live longer (GlaxoSmithKline). 

Developing a network of KOLs is essential for any healthcare product. Not only do they aid in helping to understand and influence the market they are also a necessary component of improving patient care and treatment options. 

Here at Onyx Health, our experience has taught us that KOL management takes care, time and, above all, expertise to ensure a successful outcome. We also know it works.  

For more information about our Key Opinion Leader Development services, contact Onyx Health on 0191 640 3638, email us at

Back to Blog