Written by Nada Haridy

Market access has become an integral part of the pharmaceutical industry and the healthcare sector in its entirety. New therapies are continually being developed by different pharmaceutical companies, meaning that the market is always changing. Prior to the release of a new drug, there are many factors that need to be taken into consideration to fulfill the end goal of benefiting the patient’s health, while maintaining the cost-effectiveness of the therapy. But firstly, what is market access and what does a career in it entail?

On December 1st 2016, the LSCDS held a seminar on market access, which was led by two speakers from Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Shaun Ellis, National Director of Government Affairs and Stakeholder Engagement, and Stacey Hickson, Manager of Submissions and Health Technology Assessment. Shaun and Stacey, both PhD holders, compared the responsibilities of a position in market access to the likes of one in scientific research, where a project begins with a research question, followed by building a strategy and plan to answer the question, and finally, communicating the results of the project. Some of the points that are addressed in market access are comparing the differences between the new drug and similar existing ones, predicting the changes in the market that will occur by the time the drug is released, and weighing the cost of the new therapy with its added benefits and reduced risks.

In order to cover all of these research bases, a thorough evaluation of the healthcare market is performed. Changes in healthcare policies are tracked, clinical trials and competitor pharmaceutical companies are monitored, budgets are assessed, and plans are developed accordingly. A background in science proves to be invaluably helpful at the next stage, which is communicating bouts of clinical information of the new drug to “payers.” “Payers” are healthcare policy-makers and other bureaucratic individuals who are capable of securing funds for the new treatment and implementing changes in the healthcare sector on national and local scales, such that a new product can be successfully launched into the market.

Shaun and Stacey emphasized the relevance of a life sciences background to a career in market access, as there is immense handling and exposure to scientific and clinical data. Moreover, the benefits of the practice that students gain from regularly presenting their research at talks and conferences during graduate school aids them in communicating information to the payers effectively. Shaun explained that several roles within market access exist, making it highly likely to find a position that fits one’s interests. He also added that new projects are always on the rise, each different in a way from the other, making his job more dynamic and less monotonous. Finally, one of the main advantages that Stacey mentioned was a work-life balance, something that many of us yearn for in graduate school!