Firstly it is important to reflect on what Market Access means, starting here allows some sense of what has changed, and leading to what will be the future, specifically as I believe there will be a growth of meetings & events at a national level which look very different to existing formats.
At the top line Market Access is about a commercial healthcare organisation packaging product information in such a way to answer the data needs of differing stakeholders promoting the adoption, positioning and crucially funding of products to achieve the best chance of success.
Traditionally a healthcare organisation has placed a large amount of focus on gaining the endorsement and advocacy of clinically focussed Key Opinion Leaders (KOL’s), this has and is changing with a new community, commonly known as “payers”, national and regional decision makers or, at least, those providing guidance to the prescribing options of Healthcare professionals (HCP’s). In a market access culture there is little point in only trying to convince a Clinician of a products benefit if you haven’t also convinced the person approving the budget. Commercialisation strategies to the primary and secondary communities have to change to take into account the very different dynamics on those that influence product prescribing.
Market Access strategies can focus on a number of key principles:
1. Communicate product value to a wide range of influencers, both clinical and payers.
2. Consider the broader healthcare environment that your product may impact upon.
3. Prepare for the changing healthcare market visioning the place for your product.
Individual markets and their Market Access model can in its most aggressive iterations push industry and HCP’s further apart. In France the “Reforme du Medicament” proposed in 2011 legislation, elements of which reflect in many ways the US Sunshine act, (click here for the anticipated and actual effects to M&E) requiring disclosure of financial relationships with HCP’s, patient associations and scientific experts. Indeed it now demands pharmaceutical companies no longer undertake physician training, instead providing funding for training to the government to oversee independent training programmes. This means a fundamental tactic for communication to prescribers is denied to a commercial healthcare organisation.
Quick Summary before you need Oxygen: so we have a new community of product influencers, strategies and effects, at not just international but increasingly at a national level, with messaging adapted often substantially from the central messages of commercial healthcare organisations to reflect local needs.
So are we still thinking on an international basis or focussing on empowering locally and refining content accordingly for meetings and events?
International to Regional:
There have been solid examples of a shift in focus from an International, multi market style of event to a national strategy, the most recent and visible of which was Astra Zeneca’s decision to not sponsor Doctors to international congresses. This news, the effects of which are still being calculated, matches some country specific regulatory guidance, notably Sweden and Switzerland dictating that attendees pay a portion of their costs to attend international congresses, or co-payment as it is called. A visible and practical attempt to balance the perception of sponsorship.
So many medical associations rightly feel under pressure to consider their events business plan and the financial picture around it, especially as they see attendee numbers from major markets, the target of sponsors, not attending their events, at least under a sponsored programme.
“In an August blog I am planning to talk more about International congresses, The Astra Zeneca effect and what the future for this event type might be”.
I have personal experience, whist I was head of global events for a top 5 healthcare company, of reducing by 25% the number of international congress events we supported from a global perspective, to a smaller number of core, high return activities. This was a difficult decision, some events had been supported for many years and relied upon this support. However the value did not stack up, habit and relationship were not enough over making use of human and financial resources to ensure that there was a clear outcome to this investment.
Making tough decisions on the event mix is made ever more necessary as major healthcare markets, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK, those with large populations and high personal and government spend in healthcare are tightening regulations. You have to think very carefully which events not only provide the best value but would be considered appropriate by regulators, and the public at large if, challenged.
As an example, recently the German government in a move to create further relationhsip transparency between industry and HCP’s considered if HCP’s should be considered as Public Officials and subject to the criminal codes that comes with this status. On the 22nd June it was confirmed that this was not to be the case whilst commenting “the legislature may wish to enact new legislation which would prohibit potentially criminal activity arising from suspect interactions between industry and private practitioners”.
Read more here about the views of Eucomed, a Medical Devices association, on the ramifications and a clear reminder to that industry to work towards “trust, transparency and ethical interactions” with HCP’s through the implementation of national and European Codes of Conduct.
As commercial healthcare organisations consider the best mix to their communication, on-line, event or other, the environment that sits around these decisions is becoming clearer, regulations for sole company sponsored events are tightening and a call for collaboration from a range of organisations. A good example being “Guidance on collaboration between healthcare professionals and the pharmaceutical industry” a group of 13 organisations from the UK going public on collaboration.
Core principles to this collaboration:
- Collaboration between industry and healthcare professionals has the potential to deliver significant patient benefit above and beyond what may be delivered by any party in isolation.
- Healthcare and industry professionals are able to manage their relationships with each other without compromising clinical decision making.
- A comprehensive and robust set of regulations, including UK law, health professionals’ codes and standards and the ABPI Code of Practice for the Pharmaceutical Industry ensure professional and ethical standards are upheld.
So in the UK regulators and a wide range of other groups talk about collaboration. A model where commercial and wider groups such as Associations and Patient groups work together to foster a sense of shared interest rather than the assumption of working from purely commercial or scientific perspectives.
Will this work? Will a meeting stakeholder with a budget to educate or market, take the more complex and message sensitive route to collaborate rather than ring fence objectives and go it alone. Time will tell, it is important that successful projects are highlighted and promoted as best practise, encouraged to become the norm, collaboration between commercial and clinical interests promises the potential for wonderful content, expertly and broadly delivered.
Conclusion: The “Market Access” Meetings & Events Landscape:
So staking the evidence we are looking at a demographic shift in the types of meeting that this “collaboration” through Market Access strategies should create.
In practical terms this means a reduction in sole commercial company sponsored events at the national level, fewer and greatly more targeted sponsored attendees to international congress, an increase in multi company activities at the national level, great news for the “domestic” meetings market and Associations with Patient groups well positioned to take advantage of this change in financial and scientific focus.