Market access focus: What is the purpose of market access?


How can market access enable every patient be the hero of their own journey? Popular films and ancient mythology may hold the answer.

Read this article in our Pf Magazine Market Access Special Edition here. 

Could market access be comparable to the Force in Star Wars, or any Disney, sci-fi, or Harry Potter film? When thinking about The Force, for example, the question in your head may be: “How can you compare the ethereal, imaginary, fictional bonds between all nature to the detailed, scientific, serious work of market access?” Suspend your disbelief for a few minutes and I will take you on a journey of discovery.

The comparison can apply to any film with a hero’s journey at the heart. In his book ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’, published in 1949, Joseph Campbell suggests that important myths from around the world conform to a monomyth he describes as:

‘A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.’

Campbell outlines the stages in a hero’s journey (Departure, Initiation and Return), and the common character types (from Mentors to Villains) and characteristics (for example obtaining a gift, or elixir). While Campbell was examining myths and fairy tales – from Prometheus and the Odyssey up to 1949 – many have observed that more modern books such as Watership Down; films including The Lion King, The Matrix, Harry Potter, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Wars; TV series such as Lost; and even computer games like Journey, follow the fundamental structures outlined by Campbell.

There are many ways that Campbell’s work has been represented, using different terminology, character archetypes and so on over the years.

The bigger picture

But what has this got to do with market access? My view is that in the delivery of market access tasks and the creation of market access functions over the last 20 years, since NICE was launched in 1999, we may have at times lost sight of the bigger picture. Or, as Mel Walker, Regional Vice President, Innovation, Business Development and Market Access for Otsuka Europe puts it:

“The whole premise of a market access function (is) to remove any barrier that prevents the right medicine being available to the right patient at the right time. When you strip away all the models, data and formularies, we need to help every patient to successfully navigate their own personal journey through the healthcare system to a successful outcome.”

What if we took a moment to see market access not as a siloed set of capabilities such as HTA, Government and Public Affairs, Health Economics, Pricing and so on, that seem designed around the needs of the payors and healthcare professionals? What if we saw the role of market access as one to enable the patients to become the heroes of their own healthcare journey? It may appear a subtle distinction but what if market access functions were less concerned about what they do and how they do it, and more about WHY they do it? Or as Simon Sinek puts in in his book ‘Start with the Why’:

‘It’s not just WHAT or HOW you do things that matters; what matters more is that the WHAT and HOW you do things is consistent with your WHY.’

What is your ‘WHY’? 

When searching for ‘the purpose of market access’ in Google, the first result I clicked on said: ‘To understand the needs of all stakeholders involved in the adoption, positioning and funding of your product and to develop messages that improve its chances of success.’

Does this sound right for your organisation? While functionally accurate, and no doubt well founded, I am not sure I would class this as terribly inspiring. What would a market access group look and behave like if they were all aligned behind a ‘WHY’ such as: ‘To fight for the right for every patient to be the hero of their own personal health story.’ Perhaps the journey would look something like this:


Have you noticed that no one writes stories, or releases films, about the people who fall along the journey – the ‘nearly heroes’. Yet for so many patients, through limited access, information, funding and awareness combined with adherence and circumstantial challenges, they fall by the wayside.

Maybe the role of market access is less about ‘making heroes’ and more about preventing ‘nearly heroes’. 

As a digital specialist, it is becoming increasingly clear that market access will become increasingly digitised over the coming years as artificial intelligence changes diagnostics, chatbots change access to information, and real world data enables personalised risk stratification. I believe those companies that embrace the challenges of personal, dynamic patient journeys and see these as an opportunity for market access to do its best work will rise above those that cling onto market access being a function.

In these new, evolving, digitally enabled experiences will market access be the Mentor, the Ally, the Villain or potentially, the Enabler – or the Force – behind the changes in the health journeys for patients?

Joseph Campbell. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968, p. 30 / Novato, California: New World Library, 2008, p. 23.