Medical writing

What is medical writing?

“Medical writing involves writing scientific documents of different types which include regulatory and research-related documents, disease or drug-related educational and promotional literature, publication articles like journal manuscripts and abstracts, content for healthcare websites, health-related magazines or news articles.” – Sharma S. How to become a competent medical writer. Prespect Clin Writer. 2010.

The above definition succinctly tells you what sort of projects are included under the heading of “medical writing”.

I became directly involved with medical writing about 3 years ago, starting out as a freelance writer. Prior to that my exposure to medical writing was during my time as a medical manager in the pharmaceutical and nutritional products industry.

Medical writing: clients and target readers

The clients who require medical writing services can be varied:

  • Hospitals and healthcare facilities
  • Professional/specialist associations or organizations
  • Pharmaceutical industry
  • Infant nutrition and general nutrition products industry
  • Individual healthcare professionals
  • Research organisations
  • Patient advocacy groups/associations

The target population for medical writing articles can be usually split into two main categories:

  • Healthcare professionals
  • Public/patient groups


Medical writing: types of projects

The breadth of types of projects in medical writing can be wide. It ranges from strictly scientific/academic writing for journal publications to fun and creative materials targeted to the public and patients.

I’ve listed some of the types of materials below categorizing them broadly into separate groups:

  • Academic/scientific writing:
    • Manuscripts for journal publications
    • Scientific posters
    • Abstracts
    • Clinical practice guidelines/Consensus statements

These projects are naturally always geared to healthcare professionals and can stretch any where from one month to more than a year.

  • “Co-laterals” or medico-marketing materials for pharmaceutical/infant formula/growing up milk/nutritional products industries. Medico-marketing materials are usually two-pronged with one set of materials targeting healthcare professionals and the other, public/patient groups.
    • For healthcare professionals
      • Detailing aids
      • Leave behind materials
      • Symposium highlights
      • Advisory board meeting reports
      • Videos
      • Brand reminders
      • Dosing guides
      • Slide presentations
      • Print advertisement/advertorials
    • For public/patient groups
      • Patient information leaflets/booklets
      • Flip charts
      • Posters
      • Patient diaries
      • Videos
      • Print advertisements/advertorials
      • Slide presentations
  • Health/medical websites
    • Most of these websites would be geared toward the public/patient groups. However, there are some websites that are strictly for healthcare professional use and are usually set up by or sponsored by pharmaceutical/medical device/nutritional companies or specialist associations.

Next topic: Can I become a medical writer?

Medical writing: the basics

As a medical doctor who loves to write, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to be indirectly and directly involved in the medical writing industry.

As a medical manager in the pharmaceutical and then the nutrition industry, I was tasked to oversee all medico-marketing materials produced by the marketing department. In that respect, I had to make sure that these materials met with internal standards and guidelines, and with the industry’s ethical marketing codes.

After leaving the position of medical manager, I was contacted to take on the position of a freelance medical writer. It was a great opportunity to learn the ropes of medical writing.

After three years, I’m back to freelancing and I thought it would be a good idea to share some of what I have learned and experienced as a medical writer to those who may be interested in it.

In no way am I an expert in medical writing, so what I will share are the basics of medical writing that I have learned through doing a wide variety of projects. I hope to post at least once a week for as long as I have things I can share with you.

If you have any questions hit me up in the comment section and I will do my best to answer them for you!

Next topic: What is medical writing?