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Access all areas with Huw Nicholas

Huw Nicholas, Executive Solutions Lead at CHASE, explores the barriers facing both new and established talent looking to break into market access careers.

Interview by Amy Schofield, Special Editions Editor at Pharmafield. 

Q: What barriers face those seeking careers in market access?
A: There certainly are considerable barriers to overcome. These are mainly based around two aspects. Firstly, there are few true market access roles available. Secondly, how does new talent prove themselves to have the competency/experience to take on a complex role with such a diverse customer group, when they haven’t had the opportunity to face those challenges before?

Companies that identify talent within their organisation and give them exposure to the broader payer/more challenging non-payer customer groups, will surely begin to break down these barriers. By backing existing talent and allowing them to work on specific projects with more senior colleagues, companies can make a career in market access attainable for those who want to make the step up. When recruiting externally, the same principles apply but we would encourage companies to seek new talent - that is where the future of our industry lies.

Q: Is the lack of a solid definition of market access deterring people from forging a career in the sector?
A: If not actively putting talent off, it certainly is creating ambiguity. As with the definition of key account management, so much is down to the interpretation of the concept of market access. For example, in some companies a Market Access Specialist may be little more than Key Account Management with a couple of additional customer groups added on. While many companies feel that the true definition of market access should mean that there is no accountability for sales, others feel that the two are inexorably linked. If you can’t agree on what customer group you interact with and the remit to be covered, how can you define what profile of candidate you require?

But equally, is it naïve to suggest that you can simply define market access as ‘a process to ensure that [your] medicines are made available to patients who need them’ and not only expect everyone to agree, but also build generic job descriptions that capture the nuances that reflect an organisation’s structure, therapy areas, customer group and competitor landscape?

Q: Are there also barriers for experienced personnel who wish to move into the area?
A: While they exist, the barriers are less severe. They’re typically based around the complexity/detail of the recruitment processes, the lack of clarity of ‘what good looks like’ when defining success in previous roles, and the lack of experience that candidates at a certain level have of going through a challenging recruitment process.

Q: Is there enough support within companies?
A: So much is down to the candidate. They need to drive themselves through self-development and push hard for the opportunities for project work within their company (even if outside the scope of their current role) to gain the experience needed to ‘step up’. However, companies could always invest more in nurturing talent and identifying a path for their progression into these roles.

Q: What do your clients look for when recruiting market access personnel?
A: Proof of the ability to look beyond transactional interactions of a clinical nature, to broader discussions that involve complex working with a diverse customer group across their whole health economy.

Market access requires work across a wide stakeholder network including internal (marketing, medical, cross-functional team) and external functions (Meds Management, Prescribing Advisors, Chief Pharmacists etc).

Q: How can potential candidates successfully approach market access to capitalise on the ever-changing healthcare environment?
A: This is where the crystal ball becomes cloudy - there is only so much that you can anticipate! Our advice is for candidates to keep on top of Brexit, changes in NHS, changes in funding, competitor activity, future launches, patient/ advocacy groups and so on.

Successful candidates will be those who are aware of the wider landscape, adapting to the needs of their customers. The deeper their knowledge of their own therapy area the more success they will have. Understanding the challenges faced by customers and how they can support them whilst maintaining competitive and commercial advantage is key.

Q: What is your advice to those wanting to move into market access?
A: New talent: emphasise the relevance of your experience, and ensure you understand how to fully articulate your desire to enter the commercial world - yes, a market access role is commercial! Established professionals: don’t underestimate the difficulty and complexity of the role. Build your portfolio of experience working with the payer group across as many customer types as possible.

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