Friday, April 29, 2022

A Game-Changing Shift: Why Pharma Commercial Teams Are Turning to HEOR

Today’s guest post comes from Chris Harvey, Director of Solutions Engineering at Panalgo, and Carolyn Zele, Senior Manager of Solution Enablement at MMIT.

Chris and Carolyn discuss the insights that health economics and outcomes research (HEOR) professionals bring to commercial teams. They explain how that pairing benefits both manufacturers and patients.

For more on how MMIT and Panalgo help pharma manufacturers leverage HEOR and real-world data for commercial strategies, click here to learn about the Patient Access Analytics tool.

Read on for Chris’ and Carolyn’s insights.

A Game-Changing Shift: Why Pharma Commercial Teams Are Turning to HEOR
By Chris Harvey, Director, Solutions Engineering, Panalgo and Carolyn Zele, Senior Manager, Solution Enablement, MMIT

As rare disease drugs and specialty therapeutics take center stage in the pharma marketplace—accounting for more than half (52%) of pharmacy spend in 2020—the ability to demonstrate a drug’s economic and clinical value to payers has become even more crucial for getting life-changing therapies into the hands of patients.

Before this shift within the pharma landscape, commercial teams mostly marketed drugs that encompassed large patient populations; targeting the right payers and physicians was a more standardized process. But with the influx of specialized therapies, commercial organizations need a better understanding of niche disease states, patient populations, and products to target the right stakeholders and achieve success at launch.

As a result, pharma companies today are rethinking their approach, recognizing that the health economics and outcomes research (HEOR) team—which is charged with generating evidence of product value through research and economic modeling—can also provide a skillset to develop key players for a successful commercial strategy. To that end, more and more pharma companies are staffing their commercial teams with former HEOR talent—a trend that we can expect to see more of as the pharma landscape continues to evolve.


Recently, we’ve seen former HEOR leaders take on commercial roles at Takeda and Novartis—a smart move given the nature of both manufacturers’ robust pipelines of specialty products. By bringing HEOR talent into the commercial side, manufacturers can equip the sales team with crucial expertise in disease states and the ability to analyze patient-level data with accuracy. Plus, former HEOR team members can serve as effective scientific translators and infuse a company’s commercial strategy with valuable clinical insights, such as: What kind of claims can we make based on our study data? And how do we communicate that data to payers, physicians and patients in a way that will resonate with each of them?

If a manufacturer can identify where their ideal patient lives and what insurance they are most likely to have—even which payers are most likely managing their coverage—they can start to ensure the success of their efforts. Educating the right payers and providers on rare diseases and new therapies will help patients get diagnosed and treated faster. This could lead to additional patient benefits such as fewer comorbidities and prescriptions that don't treat the patient, and potentially lower the total cost of care for payers.

With the ever-increasing availability of real-world data and more pressure to reach peak sales faster, supplementing the commercial team with these patient-centric HEOR skills, and incorporating the patient profile into your launch planning, is critical for more effective targeted marketing. Moreover, leveraging former HEOR roles allows the sales team to benefit from these insights without compromising the HEOR team’s credibility.


Pulling HEOR skills and expertise into a commercial organization is a worthwhile endeavor, but commercial leaders should take care to think through their approach.

For starters, leadership-level talent is important, but the HEOR skillset is key at every level. Commercial leaders need to consider individuals who can collaborate with the commercial team on the tactical level. Other options, such as upskilling existing commercial team members in HEOR or hiring an HEOR expert as a consultant, can also be helpful for incorporating clinical expertise and bolstering market strategy.

Additionally, focusing on collaboration is important for getting the most out of your HEOR-turned-commercial team members. The field team should be willing to dive deeper into the data to improve their targeting efforts, and former HEOR roles need to appreciate what’s involved in commercializing a drug.

These new roles may need some coaching to adjust to the commercial mindset, too. Former HEOR researchers may be hesitant to use their insights for building a marketing plan. For instance, if real-world data shows that there are potential patients over age 65 in San Francisco, an HEOR researcher may find that interesting. However, the commercial team will want to take that information and target Medicare plans with a patient population in San Francisco to make sure they have the correct coverage for their drug. To avoid analysis paralysis, the two roles must collaborate in a way that drives action.

Lastly, commercial leaders need to clearly communicate the benefits of moving into the commercial sphere. Even though a former HEOR team member may be giving up their purely scientific role—trading a scientific silo for a chance to improve commercial deal-making—they’ll gain the opportunity to make a more direct impact in getting the right therapies to the right patients.

Ultimately, HEOR is invaluable for helping get treatments to patients who need them and will continue to gain prominence as a key component of a successful product launch. Manufacturers who thoughtfully equip their commercial teams with HEOR expertise will be primed to navigate an increasingly complex—yet increasingly innovative—pharmaceutical marketplace.

To see how MMIT and Panalgo can help pharma manufacturers leverage HEOR and real-world data within their commercial strategies, learn about our Patient Access Analytics tool.

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