Revisiting European market access finds pharma adapting

Paul Tunnah


Around this time last year, Cegedim Relationship Management released the results from its European market access study, following which pharmaphorum spoke with the UK General Manager David Round for his highlights from the research – if you missed it then check out the piece here.

Back then, the major conclusions were that there was actually a lot of variation in what people termed as market access and the consequent role of the business function, that the move from prescriber to payer influence was proving troublesome and that the economic crisis has posed some challenges to getting higher priced drugs to market.


“…demonstrate return on investment (ROI) for your product or don’t bother speaking to us.”

Recently, Cegedim shared with us the results of a follow-up survey into European market access challenges, in addition to a new survey on the associated challenges of data management across a diverse stakeholder group to see how pharma was coping. The simple answer is that on the market access side there were no earth-shattering swings in the issues keeping pharma execs awake at night, but there were some interesting emerging trends that make sense when coupled with the issues identified in data management.

Everyone’s a payer and they demand value

In terms of the key challenges impacting market access, the economic situation and influence of health technology appraisal (HTA) bodies continue to concern pharma, but the influence shift from prescriber to payer remains the number one issue. This year 87% of respondents cited this as a major factor around market access, up from even the high 83% last year.

The reason why this is causing such a stir is that this is not just a change of decision making personnel as the issue might suggest, but more a change in mindset within entire healthcare systems where prescribers start to think like payers – just look at the UK system as one example where very soon all 40,000 or so GPs could be payers too. The impact of this shift from the healthcare providers is clear – demonstrate return on investment (ROI) for your product or don’t bother speaking to us. Whilst issues around understanding local decision making dynamics and the product position remain key, a massive 75% of respondents cited “demonstrating product ROI” as a key factor in market access, up from 68% last year.

Relationships, relationships, relationships!

We’ve seen, for some time, the emerging trend within pharma of moving away from a business-to-consumer (B2C) sales model toward a business-to-business (B2B) partnership model. In Europe, where market access is arguably more challenging than for any other global region that comes across loud and clear in both surveys.


“…just look at the UK system as one example where very soon all 40,000 or so GPs could be payers too.”

Over 80% of respondents cited that a better understanding of market access relationships and the use of Key Account Management (KAM), or other specialised teams dedicated to such engagement, were critical to effective market access. Interestingly a lower proportion of respondents mentioned the creation of a KAM workforce as a major industry response to improve access (76% this year versus 83% in 2010), but presumably because for most companies this process is at least well under way. However, it is notable that despite being in the “age of social media” exactly the same proportion (61%) as last year thought that leveraging physician peer-to-peer networks was important.

On the data side, this has clear implications, with 99% saying that customer data quality is important (which begs the question of what the other 1% are doing!), in addition to 92% stressing that knowledge of a customer’s professional networks has a bearing on company strategy. The benefits of such factors came across loud and clear in terms of improved targeting strategies and resource allocation.

Ultimately, understanding a healthcare provider’s market access role and their networks were defined as important by a significant majority (86%) of those taking the survey.

Too much information, too little time

Of course, with the transition towards much more complex prescriber and payer pathways, combined with the massive explosion in online data availability, the information systems of big pharma are feeling the strain. Some of the numbers shared by Cegedim around this tell their own story – 40% projected growth in global data generated over the next five years, 30 billion pieces of content shared on Facebook each month (and that’s just one social media channel), but only a 5% growth in global IT spending (figures attributed to the Big data: the next frontier for innovation, competition and productivity. McKinsey Global Institute May 2011). It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see we have some challenges here!


“It looks like that spend on IT systems within pharma might be going up quite significantly over the next few years!”

So it is of no surprise to see that only 34% of survey respondents felt that information was shared across the business well, a marked decline from the 39% falling in the same camp last year. Underlying this concern is the fact that whilst almost 90% of respondents feel that functions such as sales and marketing need to access shared databases, around two-thirds of such departments are currently using localised information centres. Consolidating the view of the customer, to assess and incorporate information from multiple angles, seems to be the major challenge as highlighted by 78% of respondents.

It looks like that spend on IT systems within pharma might be going up quite significantly over the next few years!

Pharma needs to get social

For me these studies throw up some interesting conclusions. Whether you believe in the value of the hot potato that is social media (in the sense of Twitter, Facebook and the like) there is a clear message that pharma needs to get social in a much more traditional sense of the word. Social in a sense of knowing its customer, understanding their needs and being be able to communicate the value of its products in meeting those needs to ensure market access.

And in that sense, market access is nothing new, it’s just good sales and marketing.

About the author:

Paul Tunnah is Founder and Managing Director of, the dynamic online information and discussion portal for the pharmaceutical industry featuring news, articles, events / company listings and online discussion. For queries he can be reached through the site contact form or on Twitter @pharmaphorum.

Cegedim Relationship Management helps its Life Sciences clients strengthen their customer relationships, enhance sales effectiveness, optimize data quality, improve marketing performance, and mitigate regulatory compliance risks. With a presence in more than 80 countries, Cegedim Relationship Management combines its global expertise with a deep understanding of local markets to help clients promote and market their products in the most efficient and cost-effective manner. For more information visit

Copies of the full results from the two surveys mentioned in this article can be obtained from the links below:

Market Access in Europe 2011 – An Exclusive Survey on Biopharma Industry Trends

2011 European Industry Survey on the Current State of Customer Data

Is market access just good B2B marketing?