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Complex or simply misunderstood?

With so many different specialists from health economists to public affairs through to key account managers involved in market access, is it any wonder that it remains ill-defined?

Chalkboard greenSince the emergence of market access as a function more than a decade or so ago, its adoption into the strategic and operational fabric of the industries' commercial activities has been the subject of much deliberation and debate.

The evolution of market access as a discipline within the industry has mirrored the reforms that we are seeing in the healthcare systems within which we operate today. Market access involves a myriad and ever-increasing number of stakeholder groups, which range from national health technology assessment bodies, political organisations and clinical/patient advocacy groups to regional health authorities, local medicine managers, formulary inclusion committees and public health bodies.

These decision makers are themselves faced with the vast challenge of reducing costs while improving patient outcomes in an environment where patient demand and expensive technologies are on the increase. As industry partners it is our role to understand the challenges our payer customers face and work collaboratively to provide solutions to benefit our populations' health.

It is perhaps because of the complex challenges that these wide-reaching stakeholder groups need to consider that market access remains the single most important challenge that the industry will continue to face and it appears that we are still a long way from getting it right.

Should you ask five different pharmaceutical companies to define market access you will likely get five different definitions. If you were to ask five different departments within a single company the same question you will again likely hear five different descriptions. This is not at all surprising, given the involvement of so many different internal and external specialists, but just who is right?

The one thing we do know is that all functions from health outcomes, economics, public affairs, marketing to key account managers will need to participate in market access activities at some point in a products' life cycle. The degree and scope of that contribution will very much depend on the nature of the market access challenge. Is it a pipeline or in-line product? What disease area are we dealing with? Is the product first in class? All of these will play a role in our thinking and will determine the investments that we need to make.

So the answer has to be that they are all right! For this to be the case and in order to create the cross-functional synergies required, we need to agree a common approach. So, market access, rather than a function or discipline, should be viewed as a definition of purpose. It needs to be viewed as a call to action that drives internal alignment.  Once we have established this broad definition we start to see opportunities for true collaboration across the wider organisation and we can begin to build fully integrated and multi-disciplinary market access networks. These network groups need to be experts in customer understanding and engagement, facilitation, coalition building and generating consensus. In other words, do what the industry has been so expert at for so long.

There is no mystery to successful market access. It is a question of re-aligning ourselves internally to meet the ever changing needs of the rapidly evolving environment. Generating the right evidence, analysing the environment, anticipating developments and engaging with the right customer groups will lead to success. Building a strong, effective and aligned coalition will help our teams work to understand the complex needs of our complex customers.

Sarah GilesThe AuthorBrand Tectonics
Sarah Giles, Market Access Consultant,
EU & Emerging Markets, Brandtectonics Access

Email her at:

6th May 2011


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