Medic involvement in pharma marketing

Rebecca Aris interviews Howard Goodall

Astellas

Is medic involvement too often neglected in pharmaceutical marketing? Howard Goodall, senior advisor for oncology at Astellas, addresses the merits of medic involvement in pharma marketing in this interview.

Howard Goodall believes that, as a medic, his knowledge of and experience offer him a unique viewpoint from which to identify and address market access challenges.

He speaks with pharmaphorum on why he thinks that the days of a medic’s main role in pharmaceutical marketing being a supportive one should be in the past.

Interview summary

RA: How can input from medics improve marketing strategy?

HG: Pharmaceutical marketing has evolved and a payer centered market access strategy is now vital. In line with this shift, the days of a medic’s main role in pharmaceutical marketing being a supportive one, reviewing and signing materials for accuracy and code compliance, should be in the past.

Our stakeholder group has grown, the requirements for a product to gain market access have become more complex and the role of traditional pharmaceutical promotional activity has become less prominent. From as early as phase II development a truly cross functional approach must be taken to ensure that the right drugs are developed and that they achieve market access to reach the right patients. This approach requires a deep understanding of clinical medicine, treatment pathways, clinical research and health economics.

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“…the days of a medic’s main role in pharmaceutical marketing being a supportive one, reviewing and signing materials for accuracy and code compliance, should be in the past.”

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In my experience, my knowledge of both clinical medicine, the workings of the health service and the requirements of industry have provided me with a unique viewpoint from which to to identify and address market access challenges. I feel that medics are now in an excellent position to be at the forefront of strategic thinking pharmaceutical marketing.

RA: With the NHS undergoing so much change, what opportunities does this present medics in providing input into marketing strategy?

HG: The changes in the NHS remain a concern for many companies with a significant amount of resource being used to gain intelligence on the forthcoming shape of the service and ensure the best strategic positioning.

As medics, with experience of life either in the NHS or in primary care, we can provide an interpretation of what the changes could really mean both to patients and health care professionals.

This insight can allow pharmaceutical companies to identify opportunities to influence the changing NHS for the good of patients as well as industry. Service redesign in line with QIPP can offer a chance to partner with NHS organizations to improve both efficiency and outcomes in patient care, but this is only possible with the real understanding of treatment pathways and patient outcomes that can be provided by medics.

RA: What is the role of medical in engaging emerging customer groups such as payors and policy makers?

HG: On one level I have found that the insight that medics can provide into clinical data and how this translates into real-life clinical practice is highly valued by payors and can be key in service planning.

However, in my opinion, medics have a significant and growing role to play in customer-facing activity aside from the provision and discussion of clinical data.

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“I feel that medics are now in an excellent position to be at the forefront of strategic thinking pharmaceutical marketing.”

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Payors and policy makers are looking to work in partnership with pharmaceutical companies to improve the service they offer to patients. As registered doctors, medics in industry have a primary responsibility to patients which places us in a privileged position and often allows us to enter into discussions without the unjustified baggage sometimes associated with the pharmaceutical industry.

I have found that the open and frank discussion that this facilitates can be invaluable both in gaining insights into the challenges that payors and policy makers face and also in opening discussion on potential ways to partner.

RA: What are the challenges to medics in customer-facing activities?

HG: The main challenges are probably the customers’ perception of my role and professional ethical considerations, but in many ways these are connected and can be managed.

RA: How can these be overcome?

HG: An industry medic provides most value to industry by remaining true to the ethical foundations of medicine, but sometimes external stakeholders misinterpret the role of medics in industry which leads to an incorrect perception of our motivations. To overcome this we need to be both experts in our therapy areas and also be balanced and honest in our actions based on this. This maintains a medic’s credibility and in the long term protects the credibility of our companies and industry as a whole.

The simple way of describing what I aim to do as an industry medic is: ensuring that the right drugs get to the right patients.

RA: What opportunities do customer-facing activities present to a medic and to the organization?

HG: I’m regularly involved in customer-facing activities and I think that it is one of the most important aspects of my role. As medics we have a unique position in the industry with a dual responsibility, we remain healthcare professionals with patients as our foremost concern, but we also need to consider the commercial concerns of the companies that we work for. The only way that we can ensure the best outcome for both patients and our employers is to gain a complete understanding of both. Being out in the field, talking to customers, listening to their research ideas and the challenges that they face in their daily practice can provide an invaluable insight into how we can provide value as an industry both in the short term and in the longer term in our drug development programmes.

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“In industry we have resource and skills in many areas which far surpass those in the NHS.”

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RA: How can the ABPI code be used to identify opportunities within the changing relationship between industry and the NHS?

HG: The Code provides an essential ethical framework for our practice as an industry and helps us to remember that first and foremost our end product is the treatment of patients.

As the dynamics of the relationship between industry and the NHS changes, the Code is evolving with it. For example a framework for joint working is set out in the Code which is expanded upon in the toolkit produced by the ABPI and Department of Health allowing partnership where both sides can add value to improve patient care, cut costs and improve efficiency.

In industry we have resource and skills in many areas which far surpass those in the NHS. For us to be able to utilize these to add value to our customers in an integrated but transparent way makes complete sense.

Joint working has already produced successful outcomes for both patients and pharmaceutical companies. I genuinely believe that this type of partnership over the coming years will be an essential element of the new NHS.

RA: Thank you for your time.

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DISCLAIMER: The opinions stated in this blog are the sole and present opinions of Howard Goodall and do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

About the interviewee:

Having previously attained BMedSci in Pharmacology in 2002 Howard graduated in medicine from Edinburgh University Medical School in 2005. Howard worked in a range of medical and surgical fields and specialised in General Surgery. Pursuing his interest in pharmacology, he took up a post as Clinical Research Physician and was involved in a significant number of Phase I/II studies with a particular focus on pharmacokinetics, trial regulation, First-in-Human studies and translational medicine. Howard then moved into Medical Affairs with Astellas Pharma Ltd and now works as Senior Medical Advisor for Oncology with an emphasis on ABPI code compliance, marketing strategy, market access and public affairs.

Should there be greater medic involvement in pharmaceutical marketing?