In the UK joint working is being encouraged to develop innovative services and propagate best practice. But in France, new legislation is placing significant barriers between pharma and its clients. Jérôme Guermonprez explains the implications for market access strategies in the country.
Across Europe pharmaceutical companies have been looking to underpin market access strategies with strong links to healthcare professionals. And while most pharmaceutical companies admit there are significant national differences that demand specific market access strategies, there has been a push, where possible, to leverage expertise, messaging and strategy to drive economies of scale.
Many organisations are now actively embarking upon innovative, cooperative working with regional decision-making bodies – such as the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) in the UK; whilst doctors and pharmacists are increasingly involved in research projects, from clinical research to patient care, patient outcomes and procedures. Indeed, the UK’s amended Health and Social Care Bill strongly encourages pharmaceutical research, innovation and the use of scientific evidence in decision-making.
In France, the forthcoming radical overhaul of the drug regulatory system will significantly change relations between pharmaceutical companies, healthcare professionals, patient associations and physician associations. The “Reforme du Medicament” legislation aims to crack down on health practitioner conflicts of interest, restructure the country’s drug regulator and tighten the process for licensing drugs and for monitoring their effects once in use.
The proposed bill creates compliance requirements that far outstrip the UK anti-bribery laws and includes a number of significant changes which will directly affect the way pharmaceutical companies interact with opinion leaders across the French health service.
To minimise the risk of conflict of interest, the new legislation mirrors the US Sunshine Act by requiring pharmaceutical companies to disclose all financial relationships with healthcare professionals, patient associations and scientific experts.
With an emphasis on patient safety, the bill also requires far more detailed information and discussions about indications – from the provision of a helpline number on every drug packet to enable patients to report problems, to the creation of a government watch list of drugs under review.
It also demands pharmaceutical companies no longer undertake direct physician training but instead provide the funding for training to the government, which will then oversee independent training programmes.
Critically, from a market access perspective, the bill will prohibit individual medical representative visits to physicians within a hospital; visits must be collective to avoid any one-to-one relationships and ensure discussions are open and transparent.
The impact of this legislation – which is currently being discussed and should be passed by the French government by the end of 2011 – will be significant for pharmaceutical market access policies and demand companies gain new insight into key opinion leaders (KOL).
Under this new model, the industry will have to be incredibly careful about the type of relationships that are put in place with stakeholders; indeed, at least one pharmaceutical company has already announced it will no longer pay physicians directly in the future or invest directly in physician grants to avoid any regulatory compliance issues.
Furthermore, with many physicians likely to back away from any interaction with the pharmaceutical industry, at least in the short term, patient and physician associations will have a far greater role to play. Pharmaceutical companies will have to rapidly assess the way these associations and individual physicians respond to the new legislation and amend market access strategies accordingly.
This new challenge comes at a time when pharmaceutical companies are still adjusting to the major overhaul of the French healthcare system – which has seen the creation of 26 Regional Health Authorities (RHA).
While drug reimbursement is still set nationally as in the UK, since 2009, each region has found the responsibility to adapt national objectives to local or regional health and demographic problematic. Over the past year, each region has had to sign multiple year contracts between the state and the region to deploy the health strategy.
As in the UK, over the past two years, pharmaceutical companies have realigned resources to create a regional approach based on a key account management (KAM) model. The regional structure has significantly broadened the number of stakeholders involved in decision-making, both financial and medical.
Furthermore, each RHA has a different demographic breakdown and health issues, creating very diverse goals for each region. This change has required a far greater insight into decision-makers and regional objectives; it has also demanded pharmaceutical companies use the KAM approach and strong CRM tools to drive synergies between teams at local, regional and national level.
Pharmaceutical companies in both France and the UK are now actively seeking in-depth insight into the KOLs within new regional structures. Information from the structure of the new organisations, including the multiple drug, technical and price commissions, to identifying specific members, roles and drivers is proving key to create the right regional messaging.
And with this regional, KAM-based model still in its infancy in France, pharmaceutical companies face a tough challenge to ensure the implications of the new medical reform legislation are incorporated.
Messaging, for example, must now be amended to include product safety, as well as quality and efficacy; while companies must ensure information is up to date to ensure changes in physician attitude to the pharmaceutical industry as a result of the new regulations are flagged to remove the chance of inappropriate or unwanted contact. CRM tools will also be essential to coordinate group visits to physicians to avoid any chance of the forbidden one-to-one interaction.
As in the US following the introduction of the Physician Payment Sunshine Act in 2009, pharmaceutical companies will also need help to meet their obligations to declare all activity with physicians.
It is tough to predict how the health service in France will respond to the new legislation over the next 12 months. For pharmaceutical companies there is no doubt that direct physician contact will decline and organisations will have to refocus efforts towards the increasingly influential patient associations and physician associations.
But for those organisations operating across Europe, the changes must demand very different approaches towards health service co-operation. As the UK market looks to drive service innovation and close ties with practitioners at every level, counterparts in France are being compelled to be transparent and improve patient safety. The concept of the global, or even pan–European, market access strategy looks ever less practical.