Insights on Market Access
An Interview with Nerea Blanqué-Catalina, Senior Vice President, Market Access and Pricing, Alira Health
To get her perspective on market access and what to expect in 2023, we spoke with Nerea Blanqué-Catalina, Senior Vice President of Market Access and Pricing at Alira Health. Nerea has more than 20 years of experience leading global market access and pricing teams at international pharmaceutical companies. Her in-depth market access and pricing experience includes strategy, negotiation, global value dossier design, local adaptations, clinical trials, and Target Product Profile (TPP) assessments for a wide range of conditions. She has a BSc and an MSc in Pharmacy from the Universitat de Barcelona, as well as several post-graduate degrees and certificates in business. Nerea brought her expertise in strategic pricing, strategic market access, parallel trade, and internal policies to Alira Health back in 2020.
What were some things that happened in your field in 2022 that you’d like to highlight?
The Regulation on Health Technology Assessment (HTA) at EU level was adopted in December 2021 with the goal to “allow vital and innovative health technologies – such as innovative medicines, certain medical devices, medical equipment and prevention and treatment methods – to be more widely available.” As a result, the most important issue facing market access in 2022 was the effort to lay the groundwork for the European Union Health Technology Assessment (EU HTA), which will go into effect in 2025.
At Alira Health, we have become experts in the EU HTA. We are members of the European Confederation of Pharmaceutical Entrepreneurs (EUCOPE), which lobbies the EU on major healthcare topics, including HTA issues. Through EUCOPE, we are helping the EU to lay the groundwork for the EU HTA. When the EUnetHTA 21 releases a new deliverable, we analyze and review it, we collect inputs from pharma companies so we can ensure that the new EU HTA starts in the right mindset.
The concern is, will the individual EU members be able to agree on one integrated HTA? Right now, pharma, biotech and MedTech companies create a plan for a new product and then must adapt it for each of the 26 EU countries because every country has its own requirements and regulations. The countries vary widely and have different perspectives on what’s important when it comes to healthcare. For example, Germany’s stance is quite different from that of France, Spain, and Italy. There is no consensus on the issue, but stakeholders have high expectations.
2022 was only the first year of preparation towards achieving the goal of EU HTA. Going forward, we are focused on educating companies about EU HTA, because every company doing business in the EU will need to consider this issue in their long-term business plans and strategies.
The other issue that impacted market access in 2022 was patient engagement. For me, this is very important. When I worked for a pharma company, I saw firsthand how patient input on a product could impact price negotiations. When I came to Alira Health, I advocated for our new patient engagement department. Patients are and should be at the heart of everything we do. Doctors don’t know if a patient can’t afford a medication. Pharma companies need to understand the patient’s reality. Historically, focusing on patient engagement has been unusual, but we believe it’s a game changer for our industry.
What are you excited to see happen in 2023?
The focus in 2023 will remain on helping to develop the guidelines for EU HTA ahead of the 2025 launch. We’ll be looking at how this enormous change is evolving, examining how it’s going to impact pharma companies, and providing education to our clients so that they’ll be prepared. Patient engagement will be increasingly important; the two efforts will be linked as patients become more central to the healthcare ecosystem.
Alira Health’s mission is to “Humanize Healthcare.” What does that mean to you in your role as a leader of the Market Access team?
For me, humanizing healthcare means recognizing that there’s a person behind the drug. Many times in our industry, people are stuck at the provider level and don’t consider the end user of the product. But patients can contribute in meaningful ways and their feedback matters. Companies need to find new and better ways to listen to them, and Alira’s digital health applications make it possible to get more patient information than ever before, while we educate them as to why it’s helpful for them to share it. We’re trying to ensure that the best care available is delivered to the people who need it. That’s why we always put patients at the center of design.