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It’s time for Market Access to play a leading role

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The days of pharmaceutical companies relying solely on large sales forces are over. Escalating healthcare costs due to the growing numbers of patients with chronic diseases, the aging population, and higher prices of new therapies mean companies urgently need to bolster their Market Access functions.

Government authorities are asking, “What’s the rationale for a product’s price point?” Payers are demanding information on a drug’s safety and efficacy, as well as its cost effectiveness compared to alternative treatments. What outcomes will actually be achieved for their patients? Generics and Biosimilars also play a role by giving payers additional choices. It is essential for the market to engage with physicians, regulatory agencies, pharmacies, prescribing advisors, directors of public health, chief pharmacists, and hospital business managers. Market Access teams need to be able to communicate the ‘value’ of their product to a range of customers who influence uptake, understand the current health resources for the relevant clinical condition, quantify the overall impact of a product intervention in terms of clinical outcomes, and other resources required to manage the patient.

However, the changing demands mean companies are facing numerous challenges. Simply put, the talent pool for many companies is weak, knowledge of Health Economics Outcomes Research (HEOR) is patchy, and the need for experience in Market Access has pitted companies in a fierce battle for available talent. The expectations of health authorities are sometimes impossible to fulfil because of resource and budget constraints at both the local and global levels. Organizations are also trying to adapt to the changing landscape, but some cross functional teams are less than cooperative.

In many therapeutic areas, there has been a steady number of relatively similar drugs, such as diabetes drugs and immunosuppressant products that only offer modest medical benefits and that have been priced at a premium. This does not make sense. Pharmaceutical companies grappling with Market Access strategies are looking at cost benefit analysis and opportunity costs of developing one product compared to another. Pricing and value propositions should be built on quantified economic value.

Our clients are looking for Market Access professionals who can create effective strategies for negotiation with payers and who really understanding their motivations and thought processes. Having spoken to numerous clients, we have found that a Market Access strategy should be developed with sales and marketing departments. The strategy needs to be nimble and adaptive to respond to the market; however, solutions must be unique: what works for Biogen might not work for Pfizer. The strategy is best described as horses for courses.

At multinational companies, the most effective Market Access teams in Asia are involved from the beginning of product development. The teams work well with cross functions and information sharing is transparent. Many teams have some form of Key Account Management (KAM) for stakeholders.

In addition, the Market Access strategy has to be closely aligned with other corporate functions and implemented through appropriate tactics to ensure product success. A dedicated Market Access team with a collaborative working dynamic, built through a brand-team culture, will enhance the speed of product uptake and act as a catalyst for organizational growth.

As pressure from governments to manage healthcare costs continues, Market Access will play an increasingly important role in the success of pharmaceutical companies.

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