Market Access Strategy: Pharmaceutical, Medical Device and Healthcare Service Companies in Emerging Markets


Building Market Share and Sales From The Start


John G. Baresky

The global healthcare marketplace continues to evolve. Pharmaceutical manufacturers, medical device manufacturers and healthcare service companies are driving forward to find and develop the promising opportunities that exist in emerging markets. These patient/customer bases are multiplying in population and in financial resources that generate greater demand and means for better healthcare.

Pharma, device and health services firms, always seeking growth and new revenue streams, can look to these regions and countries to extend their reach and boost bottom lines. Comparatively speaking, many of these markets are experiencing exponential population and financial growth while numerous North American and European markets have matured and have slowing, flat or regressing clinical and commercial opportunities.

Further challenges of established markets are presented by well-entrenched incumbent competitors able to maintain more than their “fair share” of the market.

Key growth drivers for healthcare product and service companies in emerging markets

A combination of factors improves the alignment of potential for the growth of clinical and commercial opportunities in emerging markets. They include these and other developments:

  • Commercial vibrancy based on greater import/export activity
  • Political stability
  • Improved educational resources
  • Domestic and international academic healthcare interests
  • Domestic businesses partnering with outside commercial organizations/investors
  • Diversified economies expanding beyond agriculture and basic manufacturing
  • Better access to information and technology via the Internet, wireless, mobile

Changing healthcare needs trigger growing opportunities in emerging markets

As emerging markets evolve, their healthcare challenges and requirements develop new characteristics. They encompass these and other factors:

  • Birth rates climb and life expectancy lengthens
  • Legacy illnesses/disease native to specific locales and regions decline but remain a threat in rural or remote areas
  • New diseases and health challenges emerge based on a higher quality of living including alcoholism, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, sexually transmitted diseases
  • Increasing populations increasing strain on metropolitan living/sanitary conditions and surrounding natural resources

Examples of emerging market nations and regions

Multiple continents and geographic centers host emerging markets. The primary emerging market leaders ( listed alphabetically ) are:

  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • China
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Mexico
  • Philippines
  • Russia
  • South Africa
  • South Korea
  • Turkey

The start of something big for medical companies committing to success in emerging markets

In established or emerging markets, growing from scratch or expanding from a sliver of market share and sales can be daunting and costly. By identifying and accounting for hurdles upfront, it’s easier to avoid bottleneck delays and cost overruns to maintain momentum.

Strategic preparation focused on the specific attributes of a new market instead of a generalized approach will enable you to develop the necessary building blocks to succeed as your competition struggles.

The array of emerging markets requires selectivity and alignment according to your organization and its products or services

Prioritizing the best ones increases your chances of success and establishes a base of experience and education to succeed in future ones. Assuming the commercial viability of your product or service has been confirmed based on these considerations; these are 6 pillars of strategy to build your growth on.

Pillar One: Embrace the regulatory environment, structure and process

Nations and regions have their way of governing clinical and commercial healthcare activities within their borders. Do not assume your teams can learn on the go; learning from your mistakes will cost you time and money while providing better-prepared competitors the opportunity to outpace you.

Be certain you have staffed up with persons who have experience in the specific market you are centered on and have existing contacts within regulatory agencies, provider organizations and supply chain entities.

This helps assure you navigate the approval process as smoothly as possible and can speed forward into the market once your offering receives clearance.

Pillar Two: Understand patient care topography

Treatment protocols and access to care can differ greatly within the boundaries of even small nations.

Electing to skip a region or provider segment or perhaps neglecting to engage even one or two centers of care like a remote hospital or clinic can cost you hundreds or even thousands of patients. If those entities are missed, your losses could multiply if their patient base expands due to marketplace growth changes and competitors exploit your errors. Stratify points of care and their nuances:

  • Metropolitan
  • Semi-rural
  • Rural
  • Remote

Be cognizant that an area can robustly change based on investment in manufacturing, shipping or other commercial activity. New business opportunities quickly attract new workers with healthcare needs to their locales

Pillar Three: Familiarize yourself with clinicians, protocols, customs

Established nurses, doctors, pharmacists and other members of the healthcare provider community need to be consulted early and often. This will accelerate your learning curve and help these future customers become intimately familiar with your company, its products, and services and increase their comfort level.

Do not rely on assumptions, syndicated reports or second-hand “expert” knowledge to base your strategy and tactics on. Even small disconnects will leave gaps competitors will fill quickly.

Be prepared that “new” is not always immediately perceived as better. Certain drugs, medical devices, and procedure protocols have been in place for decades in many emerging markets.

Think simplicity, utility and economy; generic drugs, basic devices, outdated apparatus and equipment retrofitted for improvised use to make do with whatever was available at the time and thus has become the standard for care.

Know in advance how healthcare professionals utilize digital resources and align your digital strategy and content marketing accordingly. Government, academic, commercial and social media preferences differ greatly between nations, cultures and their healthcare communities.

This spans market-specific websites, email marketing, content marketing, PPC and other resources that require translation and other geo-cultural aligned elements. Being adept at positioning, promoting and supporting your products and services through the correct digital venues gives your customers and patients direct knowledge about your product’s attributes, approved uses and how to access them. This will accelerate your launch success and ongoing brand/product management KPIs.

Effectively introducing new therapies, devices and equipment accompanied by new methods take time and money. Engaging the key clinician stakeholders and accounting for their personal, professional and organizational personas will make for a more productive introduction and quicker acceptance of your offerings.

Distinct care, cost and overall outcome advantages must be featured in a value proposition meeting the requirements of each emerging market you enter and the decision making stakeholders involved.

Pillar Four: Unconventional or restrictive distribution and procurement processes

Emerging markets have their unique ways to facilitate the flow of goods and services into and through points of care. Reflect on how wholesalers, distributors, suppliers, GPOs, dealers and other supply chain, logistics and trade relations entities differ within cities, states, nations and regions in established markets.

This goes for evaluation, procurement, materials management and requisitioning processes and procedures within healthcare provider organizations. The primary difference is your organization has become familiar with these channels and routines.

You will now have to repeat this process in an emerging market. Be certain to act on it quickly because your competitors could thwart your success early on if they adapt earlier than you.

The sooner you accept and adjust your processes per the emerging market’s structure, procurement practices and material flow the better your operations will perform and ease the way for customers to use your products and services.

Pillar Five: Contracts and pricing

While emerging markets usually possess a surge in economic prosperity, do not assume this translates to a maximum in your margin ask. It is also necessary ( and this should have been a part of your emerging market commercial viability assessment ) to understand the contracting, pricing, exclusivity and other features within each emerging market you choose to enter.

The similarities between emerging markets may seem to mirror each other but even one financial requirement or clinical mandate may disadvantage your marketing, sales and pricing strategies from the start.

Supply chain players and provider organization processes aside, knowing the payer landscape inside and out for each emerging market you choose to enter is a pivotal advantage. By possessing this, you have the opportunity to lock in a new market with the assurance your products and services will flow freely in the direction of your customers and their payments back to you will be just as smooth.

Government-sponsored healthcare, often limited in scope and scale, can be a norm in emerging markets you will have to account for. Traditional commercial healthcare and prescription benefit plans are present but service a comparatively small part of the population.

As emerging markets develop, government healthcare programs may likely improve. Conventional payer business models will become more common as outside companies establish their presence and introduce benefits plans to workers plus organizations native to the marketplace modernize their healthcare offerings.

Updated or new healthcare plans offered by commercial insurance carriers or employers will still need to meet the cost, coverage and feature requirements of government regulators.

If you chose to partner with consulting firms to facilitate contracting and other access matters, be certain you have defined guidelines and goals upfront with them.

They are being hired to guide the progress of your market access initiatives forward -not sideways. Once your product/service and organization are established in the new market, revisit how much you still need to rely on from their support and either drawdown or discontinue your work with them to reduce costs and truly establish complete commercial responsibility to those in your organization.

Pillar Six: Maximize competitive immunity

Throughout the development and execution of your market access strategy, continually refine and reinforce your competitive position. Emerging markets are attractive to all players; many will deploy all means necessary to enter them including drastic price plays, unrealistic guarantees and other measures.

Likewise, established competitors in the market will take assertive action to secure their market share and sales in place and lock you out.

Anticipate these threats from the start and be certain your contracts are well-secured and have sound contract extension/renewal strategies in place to minimize opportunities for competitors to penetrate your established base of market share and sales. Manage your contracting processes efficiently and move fast as this gives established competitors less time to react.

Monitor government or provider policy changes that may disadvantage your position and move in advance to rectify any weaknesses these create. Once you are underway, recognize and take advantage of every opportunity to generate competitive resistance to newcomers before they derail the progress you have made.

Moving forward in the exploration and commercialization of emerging markets and advancing their patient care abilities

Taking the journey into emerging markets can be a rewarding venture by avoiding the mistake of focusing too much on the raw potential of a new opportunity and not centering on intricacies involved to assess, develop and maintain successful market access strategies and tactics from the beginning.

Launching a product or service in an established or emerging market can be costly and risky no matter how innovative they are. The resources allocated to entering emerging markets ( time, money, staff and other provisions ) must be deployed efficiently to minimize waste and maximize traction.

In emerging markets, it is imperative to account for the customs, needs and requirements of regulatory gatekeepers, logistical channels, clinical and commercial stakeholders to formulate an effective market access strategy — and do it better than your competition.

Thank you for reading this story

Read my other articles about medical and healthcare business trends, content marketing and digital strategy, brand and product management, consumer wellness, managed care and market access strategy. Contact me today for your healthcare content writing and content strategy needs.

I have over 20 years of experience in the healthcare industry producing valuable healthcare content for audiences and customers spanning physicians, nurses, pharmacists plus pharmaceutical companies, medical technology manufacturers, healthcare provider organizations, managed care, investors, consumers and other stakeholders.

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