Article: Launching novel oncology therapies in Asia - Identifying and communicating value

Pei Li Teh and Wan Ling Neo, November 2019

Novel cancer therapies are offering patients new treatments and better outcomes worldwide. Recent changes in healthcare policies across APAC have reignited interest in the region as a strong market for oncology, such as China's fast tracking approval of therapies for severe and rare diseases and Vietnam's plan to cover health insurance for 80% of the population. Unfortunately, the often eye-watering costs of these new therapies means that, currently, for the many patients who still have to pay for treatment out of pocket, novel therapies are beyond reach. Pharma brands need to demonstrate clear value if they want to achieve success.


The challenges
Physicians can be reluctant to recommend a novel therapy unless they have very clear evidence of beneficial outcomes, feeling that the 'do no harm' ethnic that they ascribe to should extend to imposing no financial harm on patients and their families. Patients want justification from their doctors that these novel therapies are worth the cost. Some countries are trying to introduce novel therapies more quickly and are fast-tracking approvals, which is shortening the length of time that pharma has to achieve a return on investment. With increased pressure to get the access strategy right from the off, successfully launching a novel oncology product in Asia can be very challenging.

How can pharma address these challenges and develop a successful launch strategy? 

1. Understand stakeholder values
Brands will need to demonstrate clear value to a broad range of stakeholders, from patients and caregivers to physicians, key opinion leaders, patient advocacy groups, insurance companies and payers. Value will mean different things to different stakeholders. So, for example, the payer is keen to get value for money and requires clear evidence of medical outcomes. Key opinion leaders are less attuned to economic tolerability issues and more interested in efficacy, whereas oncologists would probably exhibit a more balanced view, weighing up efficacy against tolerability and considering practicalities around administration logistics. Patients and caregivers may consider quality of life and toxicity against overall survival. Understanding the values for each stakeholder will enable the pharma company to develop a strong brand proposition prior to launch. 

2. Understand the patient journey 
In Asia, the patient is often the payer and therefore a comprehensive understanding of the patient journey is critical. Addressing all channels and patient touch points will help identify where the roadblocks currently exist and where value can be added to best effect. 


3. Understand patient willingness to pay 
Patient's ability to pay and willingness to pay are different. Pharma brands need to understand to what extent patient willingness to pay will impact pricing and what reimbursement is in place in the market. 

Market research grounded in a strong understanding of the complexities of the local market can offer key insights into optimising launch opportunity for novel therapies. It can help unlock value in self-pay market by providing a strong understanding of your stakeholders' value perceptions - both the patients themselves and the people who will influence them. 

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