What is the difference between HEOR and market access jobs?

Author: Harry Williams
Posting date: 06/09/2017

Health economics and outcomes reach (HEOR) and market access are two separate sectors within a pharmaceutical company, yet they work towards the same goal: helping to gain market approval for a drug by determining how much it should cost, and why. Both fields work together to ensure that patients have access to the drugs they need.

What is health economics and outcomes reach (HEOR) in the pharmaceutical industry?

Within the pharma industry, HEOR (sometimes known as pharmacoeconomics) uses clinical and economic evidence to determine the value of drugs, and looks at the factors that can affect this. These are primarily the current healthcare climate and the patient.

Health economist jobs are quite scientific and technical, using a variety of models to collect and analyse data that will lead to the most cost-effective and equitable use of resources in healthcare. HEOR professionals within pharma companies also build data systems that are used by market access professionals to determine the price of a drug. These are very technical roles which use the following two models to collate data:

Budget impact model/analysis (BIA): These assess how affordable a product is within the current market compared with products already on the market. This includes comparing expense to efficacy. Are there less expensive drugs on the market that are just as effective, or more so? It also helps to predict whether the drug will be bought by major stake holders like the NHS.

Cost-effective models/analysis (CEA): These look at the effectiveness of a drug on patient compared with the effects of them not taking it, taking into account side effects and potential secondary issues.

How these models are used depend on the country, as each will have their own HEOR guidelines to follow. Outcomes reach jobs involve inputting the right data into the models in the first place. Market access roles are responsible for ensuring that the data and models are used in the right way.

Examples of entry level health economics jobs would be a health economics associate or analyst. From there, HEOR professionals can progress into health economics manager/senior manager jobs.

What is market access in the pharmaceutical industry?

Often confused with health economics, market access is a distinctly separate area within the pharma industry, although it does work in conjunction with HEOR. The definition of market access is ensuring that patients are able to access drugs quickly and continuously, and marketed at reasonable price that is line with the drug’s effectiveness in treating disease. While their goals may be aligned, market access is far more concerned with product pricing and the success of a drug than health economics.

Much like health economics, these professionals will begin in a market access analyst or associate role within a pharma company, which are quite technical positions. The potential for progression within market access is vast, but there will be a gradual move from scientific to commercial as strong business acumen is essential at the heights of the market access career ladder. Examples include vice president of market access, head of market access and market access director jobs. These individuals have a broad role that requires them to juggle leadership and development duties with business strategy and resource management.

Examples of the other types of jobs in HEOR and market access jobs in the pharmaceutical industry:

Patient access and advocacy

Patient access is a very specific area within market access, concerned with how best to infiltrate a patient community that could benefit from using a particular drug or therapy. It involves relationship building with patients, providers and stakeholders, educating healthcare professionals and supporting the running of healthcare facilities. Opportunities within this field include patient access advocate and patient access manager roles.

Pricing and reimbursement

A significant part of market access, pricing and reimbursement jobs involve creating relationships with payers, key opinion leaders (KOLs), external stakeholders and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) such at the NHS in the UK, before the company’s product is brought to market. These relationships are significant when the product is launched, as they will already have a network of healthcare connections that are interested in buying it.

Currently, those who have networks in specific regions or in sought-after markets will be particularly successful in this area. Examples of in-demand roles include regional market access managers and field reimbursement managers that will act as experts in pricing and reimbursement rules and procedures within their assigned region/country.


This is the study of how diseases occur in different age groups, nationalities and ethnicities. A particularly niche field within pharma, epidemiologist jobs are concerned with using real world data to study disease. Within HEOR, epidemiology can be used to inform strategy and methodology of drug pricing. Individuals will need a specific education in epidemiology in order to work within this narrow field.

Qualifications and training needed:

Those pursuing the health economics route would ideally need a health-related Master’s, such as health economics or health policy. For the more analytical and scientific roles, a life science degree would be more useful. 

Further up the market access career ladder, candidates will need to possess a strong understanding of business. It is not uncommon for positions such head of market access to require an MBA or a degree in marketing, or another business-related subject.

HEOR/market access opportunities within different working environments:


Health economics and market access is very dominant in a consultancy environment. Due to the technical and analytical nature of these sectors, many pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies will outsource the day-to-day work to a health economics consultancy. These expert consultants will work on many different drugs for multiple life science companies.

In terms of HEOR and market access career development, candidates who have consultancy experience are extremely desirable to pharmaceutical employers. This is because at a consultancy, professionals will accumulate broad experience of different therapy areas and will be exposed to the health economics regulations of other countries. They will also gain experience of different types of drugs such as generics, small molecule, biologics and biosimilars.

These consultants may have titles such as life science consultant, health economics consultant, or the usual health economics/market access analyst job title. Most professionals will work in a consultancy for a few years and move on to a pharmaceutical company once they have a bank of varied experience.


Perhaps the most common career path is to work within the health economics department at a pharmaceutical or biotechnology company. Here HEOR and market access professionals will focus on one specific drug or pipeline, working to bring it to market for their company. There may be more opportunities at pharmaceutical giants such as Pfizer, Gilead and GSK as they are likely to have their own health economics and market access departments.

At Proclinical, we are a consulting and staffing services provider. If you would like to pursue a career in health economics or market access, or are an experienced candidate looking for your next opportunity, please see our current opportunities. Alternatively, simply upload your CV and our specialist consultants will be in touch with suitable HEOR or market access roles.

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