Getting your drug reimbursed by the government means the world. And gaining market access is a crucial turning point for many companies. However, this difficult and elaborate process is often underestimated. According to Christian Huyghe, CEO of HealthProAccess, market research, a simple presentation of your technology, and knowing how to apply the rules are key components to making it work.
What does market access mean?
Market access can be defined as the process of getting a drug or a medical device approved for reimbursement by the government. When asked if he agrees with this definition, Huyghe replies, “People understand several things under market access. Market access can be a lot about price and reimbursement, but it can also be about a commercial strategy to position your product in the different market segments. It really depends on which type of technology you are talking about. Reimbursement of drugs is decided on the country level, whereas for medical devices or diagnostics, decisions can be made at regional or even hospital levels. There are different funding mechanisms, which makes it all the more complex .”
Is somebody waiting for your innovation?
Forecasting the future need for your innovation is a difficult task.
Thanks to innovation, we are leading longer, healthier lives. However, weighing what your innovation can bring against what we have today is a delicate exercise. Huyghe confirms: “Indeed, that is very difficult to forecast. You can innovate all you want, but in the end, you need to respond to a medical need. To a large extent, a medical need is defined by the perception of the public, which includes patients, doctors, insurers, and the government. Will the innovation be welcomed? You work on the innovation today, but it might only be ready to be marketed within 5 or 10 years. Forecasting the future need for your innovation is a difficult task.”
The outside-in approach
When people have an innovative idea, they try to gather funds and start to develop their technology. But to be able to estimate the added value of the innovation and the corresponding plausibility of market access you need to conduct thorough market research. “This is not easy,” warns Huyghe. “Being backed-up by a couple of key opinion leaders is not enough. You need real data proving the added value of your innovation. Everyone should begin by making a health economic model. This starts with a hypothesis of what your technology will do and compares it with what is known today and its costs and benefits. Then you are able to express it using a monetary value . Even before you have the results of your scientific study, you should try to anticipate what the added value of your innovation would be for the public. Actually, my advice is the following: If you want to create something new and want to make sure you will get market access, think from the outside in. What do people want? A better life. How can I fulfill this?”
Better be prepared
Huyghe says: “The people who will evaluate your technology will all have very different backgrounds. You have to take this into consideration.
Try to describe your innovation as simply as possible. Make sure that people understand what it is that you want to bring to healthcare.
“From personal experience: market access is not only knowing the systems in different countries but also being able to estimate the complexity of the different systems and then being able to assure funding,” concludes Huyghe. “You can know the systems, the regulations, and the rules, but how they are applied varies from country to country and from product to product. So if you don’t have any experience, you are basically unarmed. You really need the right expertise and a lot of experience to get market access for your product. It is something you cannot learn at university. You can study the regulations and the rules, but you have to learn how to apply them in the field. It requires a fighting spirit not to be dominated by the stubbornness of regulators.”
Christian Huyghe studied Medicine at the University of Ghent, and graduated in 1980, after which he specialized in internal medicine and oncology in the Netherlands. He joined the pharmaceutical industry in 1985, where he held several positions in major pharmaceutical companies, of which the most important ones were in market access and medical affairs. In 2009, he founded HealthProAccess, a consultancy company providing strategic advice on market access.
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