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And the answer is...

Market access: the pharma industry's solution to product success – a perspective on what this really means

A blackboard with a variety of questions written on itIn Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy the highly anticipated answer to the ultimate question is '42'... It could be argued that this is how the industry views market access, as if it is the answer to all its problems. However, this begs an even bigger question: what is market access?

Questioning the silo mentality
For those of us steeped in market access, the secret to understanding its potential is to take the broadest perspective on what market access really means. It is nothing short of a rallying cry for a major shift in the way the industry approaches its markets.

To achieve this lofty aim and overcome the challenges of a rapidly evolving healthcare landscape, industry must replace the traditional silo approach to market access with one that is more 'holistic'. Market access is no longer the slightly uncool, geeky relation rarely considered by others in the large corporate family. Today, it is the cool kid that everyone wants to know. However, many are still shy abou what to do and what they should say to be part of the market access in-crowd.

Tightening healthcare purse strings are the latest sign that change is needed. The solution is for market access to become part of everything that we do: underpinning every stage in a product's life cycle, from clinical trials through to patent expiry and beyond; involving all disciplines across the commercial and clinical mix. In fact, today's era of cost containment and 'payer power' means that market access is now the responsibility of each and every one of us.

Optimal market access can be achieved only if it is the common vision that aligns multi-functional teams. A vision that places market access at the heart of the commercialisation process, creating a common culture throughout the organisation by challenging all internal stakeholders to consider the role they play in shaping the most favourable 'market access' environment.

Investing in health
Payers see themselves as investors in health who want to achieve the best return on investment for their given population. They look to the industry for useful information that will help them understand their choices, manage budgets and make the right decisions. As complex stakeholders, payers have a broad range of responsibilities and differing remits. They are informed by a wide range of groups, policies and individuals including clinical experts, patient advocacy groups and policy makers.

Industry needs to cut through complex data and  communicate value clearly, not just in terms of cost-effectiveness. Payers are much less interested in p-values; rather, they want to learn about real-life outcomes and real-life added-benefit. Through a process of open dialogue, we need to establish what information payers and their influencers need and how they want to receive it. We need then to deliver that information as clearly as possible using the most appropriate channel. We can do this effectively only as a multi-functional team working in harmony and with one voice.

Market access success
Market access is the goal. Everyone's talking about it. But what everyone isn't doing is adopting a fully integrated approach to a common payer challenge – providing the best return on investment within today's cost-contained environment.

This integrated approach aligns industry expertise with the needs of payer stakeholders to deliver better patient outcomes and medical advances. It involves identifying common goals, clear and open communication, and true partnerships. In this way, industry can demonstrate its commitment to improving health outcomes and its recognition of the importance of cost-containment, ultimately paving the way for a more favourable environment for medicines.

Carsten Edwards
The Author

Carsten Edwards is managing director at Brandtectonics Access
Contact him at

This article was first published in PME July/August 2010 as part of the Thought Leader series.

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16th July 2010


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