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The future of market access through a communications lens

Communications will play a pivotal role in helping pharma to define the value agenda

Austerity has hit the health service and many a pharmaceutical marketer must be worrying about what this means for their drug and their job. Achieving market access for a new medicine is akin to achieving beatification if not the next promotion. But how can communications help?

Done well, communications has always been a strategic tool in delivering market access; 'ensuring that patients have access to products and services, when and where they need them and that in turn the products and services are priced fairly and reimbursed.'

Building disease awareness, establishing the unmet need, disseminating the data, connecting stakeholders and mobilising advocates to impact system change are all jobs for the communications function.

But what has really changed? Certainly the urgency has increased. The industry's market is shrinking. The demand for healthcare is growing at a far higher rate than funding and the policy impetus is to spend much less on medicines in relative terms than ever before. 

Defining 'value'
Demonstrating 'value' sits at the heart of market access. But there's a problem. No one seems quite sure, or can completely agree on what 'value' really means. Everyone has an angle, especially now the word has found its way into the heart of how the UK industry shall be rewarded through value-based pricing. 

Translating the concept into something meaningful for different stakeholders is a job for communications if ever there was one. Winning the war on what constitutes 'value' is a certain way to secure the future. 

According to NICE, appraising value in the real world means assessing outcomes, understanding the impact on healthcare resource consumption and gaining stakeholder perspectives. These are a combination of scientific (rational) and social (emotional) value judgements. Communications has a vital role to play to inform about the science and to impact social value judgements. The more stakeholders can make the case for unmet need, leveraging both the rational and the emotional, the more likely it is that the value of a medicine will be recognised. This represents a real sweet spot for how communications can support the case for market access.

Looking at the initial criteria laid out against which UK value-based pricing will be assessed, there are several areas where communications can help drive understanding, eg, higher price thresholds for medicines that tackle high unmet need or severity (disease awareness communications), higher price thresholds for medicines demonstrating greater therapeutic improvement and innovation (data communications) and, excitingly, higher price thresholds for medicines that can demonstrate wider societal benefits. Here's an area for pharma to engage more innovatively with CCGs and Health and Wellbeing Boards on educational initiatives to tackle key issues: an area where effective communications sits at the centre of delivering success for industry, the health service and society. 

So while communications will continue to support market access and the value of new medicines through conventional routes like disease awareness, increasingly it has a role to play in helping pharma engage and build dialogue with local payers and health policy makers to identify and communicate new performance measures of value. 

A UK example might be moving pharma company engagement with the health service from a disease-led model to a domain-led model. The five domains of the NHS Outcomes Framework are; preventing people from dying prematurely; enhancing the quality of life for people with long-term conditions; recovery from episodes of ill health and injury; ensuring a positive patient experience and providing a safe environment free from avoidable harm. 

So if a pharma company working in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can help a CCG tick the first four boxes, it begins to look like value beyond the clinical data.

While the future might be challenging, there is a glimmer of light on the horizon. Who dares, wins. The companies that best use communications to seize the initiative in defining the value agenda are ultimately the most likely to be successful in the dawn of tomorrow's world.

Article by
Mike Kan

global head of health at Cohn & Wolfe

14th March 2013

From: Sales



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