Overview of HEOR/market access – a consultant’s perspective

This is the latest in our series of industry sector blogs that we’re producing at SEC. Today’s blog features Benedetta Arinci, giving an insight in to the types of people who succeed in the HEOR/Market AccessBene 6_AllyBright industry.

Can you give us a brief overview of the types of roles you place?

The beauty of the Health Economics and Outcome Research (HEOR) / Market Access (MA) market is that if you ask ten ‘experts’ for a definition of the discipline, they will all tell you something different. What that means is that the roles that we work on vary from one company to another.

The HEOR/Pricing Reimbursement and Market Access (PRMA) positions we source for, funnily enough, are not focused on sales. Candidates are educated to post graduate level with most of them in a scientific discipline.

The Market Access function (that includes HEOR) is present throughout the life cycle of the product even if the core of its activities will be in Phase IIb and Phase III. The aim of the function is to successfully launch a product ensuring optimal price and reimbursement from the payer.

  1. In Pre-clinical/Phase I there would be some early pricing assessment, landscaping of the disease that is being studied and payer environment, etc. The role would be to establish if the molecule is commercially worth investing in.
  2. Phase II/III is mainly focused on evidence generation, payer early engagement, early pricing strategy, value messages testing and development of value propositions/dossiers and economic models.
  3. The end of Phase III and launch is focused on the finalising of pricing and access strategy, launch sequencing strategy, development of Health Technology Assessment (HTA) dossiers at county level, etc.
  4. After the launch the different HTA and reimbursement dossiers will need to be justified to those that pay for the product and there would typically be some commercial optimisation and uptake activities (value differentiation studies).

In HEOR and Market Access three quarters of the roles we work on come from organisations who provide consultancy services to pharmaceutical companies – CROs & smaller specialised consulting firms. The other quarter comes from the industry directly (pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology companies and more recently medical devices companies). The distinction between the two is quite important and the responsibilities, for example of a health economist in consulting, will be very different from the responsibilities of a health economist in pharma.

The roles that we come across the most in consulting and pharma are:

In consulting:

  • Health economics modelling / Economic evaluation
  • Data synthesis and analysis – HEOR/RWE statistics
  • Evidence generation – Epidemiologists or Health Outcomes Specialists
  • PRO/ PCO – Patient-Reported Outcomes Scientist (Quantitative or Qualitative – could be two different roles)
  • Market Access Strategy / Payer strategy
  • Market Access Writing / Value Communication

In pharma/biotech’s:

  • At affiliate / country level:
    • Health Technology Assessment – Health Economist or HTA specialist
    • Value Demonstration
    • Governmental / Public affairs
  • National Pricing
  • At corporate / global level:
    • Health Economics modelling
    • HEOR Evidence Generation
    • Value Strategy
    • Product Launch

Depending on the company, its structure and therapeutic areas, there would be some mix and match and they will all have different titles.


Describe your ideal candidate – what do they look like?

In terms of skills, the ideal candidates vary depending on whether the client is from a consultancy/CRO background, or a pharmaceutical company background.

For consulting/CRO roles, we look for candidates who have been in touch with the client and can manage expectations, advise on best methodology/strategy and win more business. They need to be effective at managing projects and they need to have worked on the relevant deliverables (build Markov models from scratch from modelers, developed GVD/HTA dossier for value comms, etc).

For pharmaceutical companies it is about finding people who know how to interact, educate and negotiate with different stakeholders (internal and external), again have good project management skills, understand strategy and manage external consultants for the delivery of the different necessity tools. They need to have strong negotiation and presentation skills to represent the brand externally, whilst understanding the trends of the market with a local, regional or global scope.

A good candidate will also be somebody who has shown a level of stability in their career, but is ambitious and committed enough to want to drive their own personal aspirations forward. One interesting attribute is somebody with a good memory! We have people who have to balance a large number of projects, tasks and knowledge, so that is certainly something that comes in handy.

The way we like to work with all people at SEC is to treat them as we want to be treated, which is why for us any relationship we build – whether that’s candidate or employer focused – is based on the values of trust, honesty, integrity and commitment. If we give that to our candidates then we also find we get that in return. That’s why quite often we find that our candidates will eventually become our clients too, as we look to place roles for them.


What have you seen happening in the space in recent years and how will it be changing moving forward?

In the last 15 years Market Access went from a very marketing-centred discipline to a highly regulated one. Now HEOR/PRMA experts make up a more scientific element of the commercial team.

In Europe, as governments are struggling to reduce spending (but also in an effort to mitigate the postcode lottery i.e. access to the best drugs only in rich areas), a lot of guidelines and industry bodies have been put in place to ensure that the technologies they are paying for (reimbursing) are available to all nationally, as well as being cost-effective. This therefore creates a brand new kind of professional with matching training/degrees available in different universities.

The shift of focus to HEOR/Market Access has been quite spectacular. In the last five years alone we have seen a lot of “boutique”/ specialised consulting firms being purchased one after the other by the larger CROs, who have realised that they could not compete with them when trying to start a highly specialised department completely from scratch within their own business. So acquisition of these organisations by the bigger players was perhaps always natural.

Similarly, on the industry side we have seen pharmaceutical companies heavily invest in those business units, sometimes going from zero to ten team members in that very same time frame but still outsourcing a lot of the work to consulting.

The demand has therefore risen much faster than was possible to train the relevant candidates, making the recruitment of those specialists a real struggle, as the talent simple has not been in the market in the volumes needed. Within the next five years as more well-trained and experienced candidates become available, the pressure of recruiting good people will perhaps reduce slightly, but I believe that it will always be a candidate driven market due to the specialist nature and skills of the people that exist. Only time will tell.