The distance between pharmaceutical companies and Medical Specialists

31 January 2019


Clinical Research

Interview with Rogier van Heijst

We spoke to Rogier van Heijst, an Advisor for pharmaceutical companies, to find out more regarding the distance between pharmaceutical companies and Medical Specialists. 

He is specialised in answering different kind of strategic and commercial business questions with long term impact, such as an improvement of business performance. We asked him to discuss the following business question: Do Medical Specialists and pharmaceutical companies have to collaborate together much more in order to speed up the improvement of medical help for patients? In this article you will read some tips based on Rogier’s previous experiences regarding this business question.

During Rogier’s time studying Business Economics, the innovative world of biotechnology became the subject for his thesis regarding growth strategies for small biotech firms. “Especially the part that biotechnology has the potential to improve the quality of people’s lives often in a much better way than ‘classical pharma’ does interested me, and still does.” “I knew I wanted to be a ‘business improver.’” He supported multiple leading Pharmaceutical companies with different kind of strategic and commercial business questions, for example during his time with Vintura, a leading consultancy company specialised in healthcare and life sciences.

Rogier has worked on many projects during his career. For example, a project for which he was developing a marketing strategy for a new innovative drug. We asked him if he found any barriers, tricks or tips that other pharmaceutical companies should keep in mind. The first tip Rogier gave was the following: “Pharmaceutical companies should think about their marketing strategies even before they start phase III, as the outcomes of a clinical trial phase III are critical for the introduction to the market. For example, what is your target market and where in the patient’s pathway does the new drug fit in, prescribed by Medical Specialists?”

Some biotechnology firms are very much R&D focused and often these companies do not have products on the market yet. Hence, they do not have a marketing and sales organisation to bring the first product to the market. In addition to that, their strategy can either be to sell the product before, during or after the clinical trials to an organisation, which will commercialise the product. Another option is to set up a strategic partnership with a commercial player. Very rarely you will see that a biotechnology firm commercialises their own first product themselves, as this is extremely challenging. The biotech firm needs to build up a commercial and operational organisation and maybe even a production facility. This requires major investments, knowledge and entrepreneurial spirit that most biotech firms do not have and do not wish to have.

During another research, Rogier has spoken to many GP’s (General Practitioners). “Because of these interviews we could inform our customer (a pharmaceutical company) if and which GP’s were willing to prescribe a new drug and what needs and expectations the GP’s had. The result of this market research showed something different than what the client expected beforehand, this shows the value of profound market research. With the result of our research, we were able to support our client with making commercially strategic decisions.

People sometimes ask Rogier if his advice is also usable for other companies. But as the research results were specific for this product, they are not usable for other products or clients. Every advice/research is custom designed for the specific client question.

Furthermore, Rogier sees that Medical Specialists are often hesitant to cooperate with pharmaceutical companies. An often-heard complaint from Medical Specialists is “we improve patients’ lives and the pharmaceutical companies walk away with the commercial benefits.” This raises the question: “Should we change the beneficial system or are there other possibilities?”. Rogier considers this to still be an open question. Nevertheless, he thinks that an improved collaboration between Medical Specialists and pharmaceutical companies will be very beneficial for the patient. How can this be achieved? Maybe with a fundamental change in the beneficial system but it certainly needs bold leadership from all parties involved to improve this situation.

To conclude, Rogier advices that thinking about your marketing strategy starts before designing the clinical trial phase III, so marketing can use the valuable outcomes of phase III during the market introduction and nothing is forgotten during the clinical trial. Furthermore, cooperation and knowledge sharing are crucial for better innovations and getting new treatments faster to the patient. A lot of people would love to see an improvement regarding the collaboration between pharmaceutical companies and Medical Specialists. “Unfortunately, there are a lot of Specialists that do not wish to collaborate (anymore), for very understandable reasons. Therefore, it requires a first move from the pharmaceutical companies and bold leadership.” “Improving patients’ quality of life. I can only hope that soon everybody will practice what they preach”


We would like to thank Rogier van Heijst for his time and sharing his experience and thoughts with us. Do you have any comments for Rogier, or do you want to share your own opinion and experience as well? Please contact us via info@biotechnologycommunity.com or LinkedIn.