At our recent Access Insights Conference, we – along with our esteemed co-hosts Blue Fin Group – explored pharmaceutical industry trends that impact drug commercialization and market access. First and foremost, we thank everyone who joined us for three outstanding days of thought leadership, networking, and fun in Baltimore. In today’s blog, I’d like to explore one of the key themes of the conference: the industry shift to true pharma data-driven commercialization, both strategically and operationally.

The Need for a More Balanced Commercialization Approach

Over the last decade, we’ve all felt the growing pains as the industry continued its shift from traditional brands to more expensive and smaller patient population specialty brands, but now it’s even more complicated. The product archetypes being discovered, developed, and commercialized today are far more splintered. Today’s landscape includes specialty lite drugs that fall between the price points and complexity of traditional brands and specialty self-administered brands, a resurgence of HCP-administered specialty therapies, the rise of specialty generics and biosims as well as orphan and rare disease therapies, and a growing number of cell and gene therapies.  

What’s more, on balance the new generation of product archetypes face a less favorable access environment.  Plan sponsors are facing rapidly mounting costs, and they’re pushing those costs to patients at a rate that is unsustainable. Premiums are rising, more patients are on high-deductible benefit designs and face steep out-of-pocket costs. History has shown that economic pressure and recessions mean more abandoned scripts.

The pharma industry is already under significant pressure, which is evident in the trends in gross and net prices. Net revenue in the industry is barely growing, and discounts are growing at twice the pace of drug price increases. More categories and entire product archetypes are seeing payer contracting and rebating for the first time. Other gross-to-net line items such as channel distribution costs look set to grow for many manufacturers. In addition, significant reforms such as the Inflation Reduction Act are materially impacting drug pricing.

This combination of archetype diversity and a gross-to-net pressure is forcing the industry to make significant adjustments. First, cookie-cutter, playbook-driven launch approaches simply no longer work. New therapies each have wildly different patient journeys and access challenges, and they often require bespoke approaches to channel design, payer strategy, patient support, and more. Second, the shift away from playbooks means that innovative manufacturers need to more tightly align their commercialization efforts across more departments and more functional processes than ever before. Third, the combination of diversity and a faster pace of launches is forcing the industry to adapt to a much, much faster pace of commercial decision-making.

A faster pace of decision-making is not enough. The industry has long proven it can optimize traditional approach of demand generation: getting docs to write scripts via salesforce effectiveness, promotional effectiveness, and so on. Larger manufacturers are extending their data and analytics platforms to demand realization, directing field reimbursement manager calls, optimizing patient intervention strategies, and diagnosing challenges in pharmacy network performance. 

Demand generation and demand realization are not enough. Pharma needs to extend its decision support infrastructure to demand profitability. At what point is a rebate no longer actually lowering barriers for a patient? Where is the point of diminishing returns in patient service investments? What are the government pricing and gross-to-net consequences of pricing and contracting decisions? Manufacturers need to be able to answer demand profitability questions with the same analytical rigor that has become the norm in demand generation. They need to be able to answer those questions quickly, affordably, and across their portfolios.   

What is Data-Driven Pharma Commercialization

Data-driven commercialization is the process of integrating data across the organization to make strategic and informed pharmaceutical decisions. Pharma has long embraced the use of data, but it has been lopsided, siloed, and clunky at times. To successfully commercialize drugs today across all the interdependent functions and balance demand generation, demand realization, and demand profitability, more data than ever before needs to be integrated across the entire commercial organization. However, the complexity is immense.

A good metaphor for data-driven commercialization is that it’s like needing two sets of lungs to thrive. In this case, one lung is strategic and one is operational. You need to seek data insights that deliver an advantage in your commercial strategy by grounding decisions in the data that is available to you but not your competitor or in insights that you reach through analysis before your competition can. Simultaneously, you need to achieve better commercial outcomes by digitalizing daily and recurring business activities and by orchestrating those activities with increasingly diagnostic and/or predictive analytics.

Barriers to Data-Driven Commercialization

Demand profitability use cases require an incredible breadth of commercial, operational, and financial data sets. For most pharma manufacturers, operational and financial data is landlocked, deeply disconnected from the rest of the organization. Revenue management systems – the repository of most of the organization’s contracting and pricing data –- are rarely well integrated with the commercial data warehouse. Gross-to-net modeling and related data is typically trapped in spreadsheets, which makes it extremely hard to pull data into strategic and timely decision-making. Master data integration between third-party data, channel data, contracts and pricing data, and gross-to-net data is almost non-existent in the industry.  Yet, to answer demand profitability questions for the emerging archetypes, pharma needs to use all of those data sets together. Data access and interoperability are going to be critical moving forward, and manufacturers need to ask if their legacy revenue management systems and spreadsheet-bound financial processes are becoming critical roadblocks.   

How IntegriChain Can Help

IntegriChain has been building pharma’s data-driven commercialization platform – from strategy to operational execution. We’ve created an organization that reflects our vision for connected commercialization, encompassing a team with deep experience across demand generation, realization, and profitability. Through our combination with Blue Fin Group, our pharmaceutical consultants are embedding data in strategy development and both building strategies that can be operationalized now and identifying strategies that are possible through data and technology and outsourcing. 

In addition,  we continue to advance our technology and data foundation – the ICyte Platform.  For the past six years, we’ve focused on extending ICyte from its roots in data aggregation and analytics to become an integrated platform for contracts and pricing, channel, patient access, and gross-to-net. Our vision is for ICyte to fully connect the commercial, operational, and financial dimensions of commercialization. We’ve firmly established ICyte as an industry-leading data aggregation and contracts and pricing platform. Matching features and functions in relatively mature product categories such as contracts and pricing is table stakes. To realize our vision, we’ve committed to ongoing innovation in five areas that we see as critical to the future of data driven commercialization:

  • Patient data management: Compliant stewardship and integration of enterprise patient data assets.
  • Rx management: More precise contract adjudication at the script and patient level.
  • Enterprise GTN technology: Scalable, business process-specific applications for GTN forecasting, accrual management, and optimization.
  • Demand and inventory visibility: Accurate measurement of total pipeline inventory and total product utilization.
  • Platform insights: Actionable benchmarks on all dimensions of access investment, powered by the ICyte Platform.

During the Access Insights Conference, we explored these critical areas and far more. Over the coming year, you’ll hear more about how you can create pharma data-driven strategies for market access and operational excellence to achieve demand profitability. Of course, as always, our pharmaceutical consultants are happy to engage and discuss this vision, your challenges, and how we can help.

About the Author

Josh Halpern

Josh Halpern

Co-Founder, President, & Chief Operating Officer

With more than 20 years of experience in pharmaceutical commercialization, data, and analytics, Josh Halpern is responsible for IntegriChain’s day-to-day operations including its Managed Services, Data Products, and Professional Services organizations. He focuses on driving alignment across the company’s operations, its go-to-market strategy and teams, and its technology organization and roadmaps.