Implementing the national brand strategy at local level

National brand messages for general biological medicines must be tailored to patients and clinicians at a local level, and dovetailed with the needs, priorities and challenges of England’s 44 local healthcare economies, all of which work differently.

In order to implement a national brand strategy locally, pharma salesforces need access to robust customer data to identify key stakeholders and understand the widening roles and responsibilities that many of them hold.

This is particularly important with regards to Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) and Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) as these are not legislated NHS bodies. Sometimes the only way to identify STP/ICS staff is via the ‘attendance and apologies’ section in minutes and strategy documents embedded in member organisation board papers.

Pharma also needs to dovetail its national market access strategy with the needs, challenges and priorities of the individual STPs. To achieve this, sales teams must be familiar with the individual plans of STPs and keep abreast of the latest developments via sources such as board meeting minutes and operational plans.

The long view

Sales teams must also be mindful that some parts of the local health economy are integrating and may be moving away from traditional payment by results systems. This can affect the types of drugs used, particularly if there are associated administration requirements, such as infusion. With longer service contracts, these ICSs are also looking at longer term budgeting and the subsequent value that drugs could deliver over longer periods of time.

For example, a pharma company might be able to prove that the high cost of more aggressive biologic therapy earlier on in the patient pathway, for conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Crohn’s disease, could outweigh the long-term cost implicated with less aggressive therapy leading to earlier surgery.

This is because less aggressive treatments can lead to a build-up of scar tissue within the intestines, which can, in turn, lead to treatment failures and a need for expensive and ongoing hospital treatment.

The right fit

To work with the NHS in this way, pharma sales teams need to start seeing joint working and service implementation as a ‘to-market’ channel and be equipped to help re-design services and patient pathways.

This is a macro-sell that takes account of all the factors in the NHS decision-making process. It requires an in-depth knowledge of the local health economy and a strategic understanding of where a product fits into the overall care pathway and how it could bring cost savings and improve patient outcomes in the long-run.