All that ‘market access’ talk

While I have been on a skiing vacation in Switzerland last week, I had an interesting conversation over a long mount with the t-bar lift. Funnily enough as we started moving out of the base station and talking about the usual - weather and snow conditions, it also turned out that my Saturday morning lift sharing neighbour from Geneva was a consultant at one of the major management consultancies, currently assigned to help a top 10 pharma to reorganize departments involved with maximizing market access opportunities of the companies’ medicines. Given that I am working in that area, we very quickly had a lively conversation on the subject, continued over several Glühwein on the terrace of one of the restaurants on the slope.
I found it rather impressive how quickly he had come to the bottom of the matter although not very familiar with the details and technical aspects of our day to day work. It’s no news that almost all companies seem to struggle with the changing environment and HTA hurdles and are trying to form new teams and organizational structures to meat the challenges ahead. What he described correctly though was that the problem lays a few steps earlier, in product development. You simple need to bring forward a real good product, as he told me, and than the whole access discussion is less of an issue. Sounds rather simple and straightforward I suppose – not so easy to do as we know. Indeed, one thing however is to try to fix and justify at launch what may not be justifiable to some stakeholders… or, applying outcomes based accessed strategies – as the Bruckner Group puts it in their recent article – earlier on in a more strategic and systematic fashion in order to weed out the portfolio and develop an overall outcomes based business strategy. I also believe that he is definitely right in his observation that health economics appears to be underutilized in business development, licensing and pipeline decision making. This consultant also mentioned that there might be a danger that some of the folks from health outcomes/economics departments he interviewed may turn out to end up as glorified medical writers and will be producing papers rather than their skills being used towards a more strategic approach. I wonder if it is the lack of ‘sales’ skills of the outcomes people or the position within the company org chart that causes that perception in many cases. It’s not the first time that I hear that the health economics guys feel not fully appreciated or involved enough into the general commercial strategy. There is probably also some element of science clashing with marketing views – some of the later guys coming from the ‘old’ school where outcomes based access and evidence was considered, at most, a marketing gimmick without necessarily always having the appreciation that times have changed big time since. In any case it is kind of amazing to see the vast amount of recruiting, reorganizing etc. that is going on in the last couple of month and especially the tremendous increase of consulting groups in that area. I think it would be very interesting to hear from readers of the blog as to how they feel about the developments and what they think best organizational structures and approaches could be and where we see all this going? In the meantime, a happy Easter week to all!


A.M. said...

Just a thought about underutilized outcomes research managers. From my (limited, though) experience, many OR managers came either from Economics or Clinical research. With such background, "fighting" with core departments (which are sales and marketing) would not help a lot. I wonder if joining market research with OR and core marketing with reimbursement functions would help.

ustaginnus@hotmail.com said...


thanks for your comment. Looks like various organizational models are in place and are being discussed throughout the indutry. I guess what I was hearing from some people is that health economics should be more and especially earlier involved in the broader commercial strategies. I guess however you want to combine it, team effort will be key. Cheers