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Re:thinking market access

Market access is not the remit of one department, but a way of doing business

'Access' painted on a tiled floorMost companies understand that market access is now very important for the future success, or even survival of the business. What many companies have done is set up new market access functions so there is clear evidence of them taking action on this most vital issue. Great. Or is it?

Throughout its history, when the pharma industry has faced a new challenge, like SFE, it has reached for the organisational chart to find the solution. Structural change is seldom the solution to the problem, as any organisational development professional will tell you; there is simply no such thing as the 'right' organisation – every company has both strengths and weaknesses.

Thanks to structural change, now we find ourselves knee deep in market access departments and market access managers at global, European and country level who will all make everything okay. Or not?

Don't get me wrong, it is vital that we have experts in market access who can help the organisation develop the right evidence to be communicated to payer customers. The problem is that as soon as you create a department that deals with market access, no one else has to worry about it. And that's exactly what has happened in many companies. Marketers and medics who find health economics and HTAs 'a bit complicated' now have the ultimate excuse not to engage with it – it's somebody else's job. This is a fundamental mistake. For example, marketers do not produce adverts, the agency does that; but marketers are expected to be able to brief the agency, and more importantly, evaluate what is presented to them. Market access is no different in this regard – it's a skills set marketers and medics must take on board.

Marketing is all about customers – understanding their needs, and delivering solutions that meet their customers' needs, profitably. Payers are customers, just like prescribers and patients, but with different needs and different perspectives that we need to understand. (If I hear somebody describe payer customers as 'hurdles', 'barriers' or 'obstacles' again I think I'll froth at the mouth).

Payers' needs must be reflected not only in good communications at the tactical end, but in the evidence generated throughout the life cycle of a treatment, from clinical development to patent expiry. Unless marketing, discovery teams, clinical development, regulatory affairs and project management understand market access and the needs of payer customers, the right evidence will not be developed, at the right time, using the right methods to gain market access.

Without the right evidence, the best tactical market access operation in the world will hit a brick wall. We know, we've seen it.

Cross-functional working is key to market access success. Market access is not a department, it's a way of doing business. Pharma needs to adopt a new brand planning process for cross-functional teams, one that not only includes best practice in brand planning, but incorporates fully market access throughout the process in a simple, user-friendly way.

This is one of the reasons GalbraithWight developed Decisions – our new brand planning process for cross-functional brand teams which not only includes very best practice in brand planning, but fully incorporates market access throughout the process in simple, user-friendly way.

It is why GalbraithWight developed Decision Gates – our new process for incorporating all market access requirements into the clinical and regulatory development process in R&D, ensuring the right evidence is generated at the right stage in the development process.

It's also why the GalbraithWight Business School incorporates these processes and philosophy into all our learning and development programmes.

So put away the organisational chart, and instead focus on organisational development in terms of the capabilities, frameworks, processes and philosophy you need to build and embed market access as a core business competency every single person and every single function across the company.

Colin Wight
The Author

Colin Wight is chief executive at GalbraithWight
He can be contacted at

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

To comment on this article, email





6th August 2010


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