Women Leaders in Market Access: An interview with GSK's Clare Marley

March 27th, 2024

In our podcast series, “Women Leaders in Market Access,” we shine the spotlight on women leaders in market access, looking at their professional and personal journeys and what’s attracted them to the industry.

This interview features Clare Marley from GSK.

Clare is a seasoned professional with nearly a decade of dedicated service at GSK. With a primary focus on global market access and payer strategy, Clare has seen the evolution of the market access function, transforming from its inception into the dynamic discipline it is today.

Having spent a significant portion of her career navigating the intricacies of market access, Clare’s wealth of experience brings a unique perspective. You can access the podcast episode featuring Clare here, or continue reading for the complete transcribe of the interview.

Q.1 How did you become interested in market access?

My current role is in the global market access function in GSK and I’m the disease area head in our Immunology group. So that means that me and my team, we’ve got responsibility for the inline and the pipeline immunology assets.

I’ve been working in market access for a lot of my career. It’s roughly 15 years now, and that’s been split across a few different companies and I’d say about 50-50 with LOC (Local Operating Country) and global roles. It’s not always been market access though. I did start off my career in sales.

I was a sales representative when I first joined the industry and I worked in various roles in the field as a sales rep, as I’ve mentioned, and then also as a key account management. And it just seemed to grow organically from there, that I moved into market access right at the time, really in the early 2000s when market access was becoming established as a function.

Q.2 So was it the pharmaceutical industry that you started off in sales?

Yes. That’s right. I’ve always been interested in sciences and in that field. I did a science degree back in Dublin and after I finished that I ended up moving straight into pharma. So I have always been in the pharma industry.

Q.3 What encouraged you to explore a career in a STEM subject? Was this intentional?

I think I’ve always been more inclined to sciences in honesty. That comes from my parents – both are biochemists.

Back in Dublin there was a family business that my parents ran and that was supplying hospitals, pharma companies and labs with different equipment and technology.

I was at the stage where I was working there in the summer and, always being exposed to that environment. So it felt natural then to move into studying science. And that’s what I did in UCD in Dublin. Along the way I’ve done some more studies  – a Master’s in epidemiology, which has been both interesting and helped me in my career.

Q.4 Do you think there's more to be done to encourage the next generation into a career in science? Pharma specifically, or maybe even market access?

I think it can be a very rewarding career and it can take you in many different directions.

We were also chatting offline about women coming into STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Maths) forces. I think the pharmaceutical industry is probably pretty good on that front, compared to some other, STEM industries, like engineering, etc. We always want to be attracting people into this field. It can be a really rewarding career. It can take you around the globe if that’s what you’re inclined to do, it can go in so many different directions.

So, it’s only going to be our benefit if we can attract the top talents that have got new ideas and new ways of doing things into the field. So yeah, I think it’s always important that we’re doing that.

Q.5 How do you think your career pathway started transitioning from sales into market access?

I worked a number of years in the field force as I’ve mentioned, and it was back in the early 2000s when things were really starting to take off from a market access perspective. At that point, a term, I’m not sure you hear it so often now around, postcode lottery.

It really was a postcode lottery in terms of what medicines you could access local funding decisions – I’m talking in the UK from my experience. It was at that time that market access was starting to be established as a core and integrated function within pharma companies as well.

I was curious about becoming involved in that, and I could see the challenges in the field about how could we get access for our drugs for patients? What was the data requirements from a payer perspective, because it was definitely different to the conversations that I was having with healthcare providers and that really interested me.

I managed to move from being out in the field and working as a key account manager, to having more of a role with developing the appropriate materials that the key account manager teams needed in order to engage with payers. So that’s really how the transition happened for me. And then it just went from there in terms of various roles at a local level. And also, then transitioning into a global role after about seven years.

Q.6 Were you always certain about career change from Sales?

The sales element? That’s a tough job. 

And I really enjoyed it at the time, but I was definitely ready, I think, to do something else. It was before where we were joking that you don’t dream necessarily of being in market access when you’re growing up. And it’s funny because my 10-year-old daughter asks, what I do, and she gives me funny looks and I’m trying to explain to her what I do.

But it is a very rewarding career. I’m passionate about health and healthcare and I think you can make a very interesting and rewarding career from working in market access.

Q.7 What is a typical day like for you now, and what are your key priorities?

It’s funny. I bet you’re expecting me to say like there is no typical day and that is true. It’s the variety that keeps it engaging and keeps it interesting. But there are a few priorities that we can talk about. One of the key accountabilities in a global access role is to lead that global pricing and market access team.

And what that looks like is a cross-functional group within global, but also engaging with regions and some LOCs to really drive the strategy at an asset level. One of the core accountabilities is to deliver the strategic plan at an asset level through that hub, through that team. 

Of course, there has to be some external insights and knowledge. So, there’s always some projects going on, whether it’s preparing for an advisory board or external engagement, or gathering insights through another way, such as market research. There are usually projects like that which are ongoing. Another key priority is how we build relationships across the organisation.

So, I do spend a lot of my time with other functions with the cross-functional team. We would sit on other cross-functional teams such as the medicine development team within R and D (research and development), which is really important because one of the things we’re trying to do is to ensure that we’re getting payer strategy and thought early into the development plans and really shaping what the evidence generation is like, so we can have the right evidence at launch for payers as well as all the other important stakeholders.

There’s a lot of engagements across the business. We spend time with our brand teams and with other parts of the business and coming together as a market access team is also important. 

We want to share best practices and know what other people are doing and ensure that we’re tapping into that. Learning from each other and also discussing key trends that are happening externally and what those implications mean for us. So, it’s important that we build our community internally to evolve ourselves as a core and integrated function within the broader organisation.

Q.8 Could you elaborate on the nature of the internal community you're building? Specifically, is it a dispersed community with members located in different locations?

Yes that’s right. We are literally at every corner of the globe within our global market access team, which is brilliant because you’ve got views from all over and different backgrounds and experiences. But the flip side of that is that we’re actually quite a new and forming team here, and we’ve been building those relationships virtually via Teams meetings, etc.

We have got together face-to-face on a few occasions, so there’s more of that happening. Day-to-day, it’s a team that’s spread all over, in different time zones.

Q.9 What is your experience of working with the team at Access Infinity?

So like I mentioned before, gathering external insights is a core part of what we do. I’ve been fortunate enough in the last few years to get to know Shri and Ahmed quite well. And in more recent times, yourself and Keshav it’s been great to work with the team and get to know you.

Mainly for me, it’s been around our strategy development working with the team on trying to think through different analogues and generating payer insights. So, all of that external input is really important into our strategy development. So that’s been the main work that I’ve done with the group.

Q.10 What have been the most significant changes you've seen in your career so far?

I mentioned earlier that market access is a relatively young function, right? So, it’s been fascinating to be part of that journey as it’s emerged as a core and integrated function at a pharma level, and also market access, getting involved even earlier in development.

And I think that’s really significant because not only when we’re bringing innovation to market, do we need to meet the requirements of regulatory stakeholders, but it’s imperative that we’re getting the right data generated so we can achieve early market access and reimbursement. So, we have the right data from a payer perspective as well.

So, I think that’s been interesting to me, just seeing the function grow and evolve, it’s still happening. I think if you looked across different companies, and I’m sure you’re hearing different things with people you speak to, I think there’s probably still variability at a company level with the sort of size of the function or how we’re set up. But that’s part of the evolving function. So, it’s quite interesting to be part of that over the last number of years.

Q.11 What would you say are the biggest challenges that market access professionals face?

This is an interesting one. Market access is, a pretty complex area to work in for a number of reasons. There’s so many interdependencies across different functions within the organisation and I think there’s perhaps slightly an unusual blend of competencies and skills to be successful in the role. 

You have to be technically and scientifically literate alongside having strong business acumen and being able to communicate at different levels within the organisation. So it’s quite a complicated role from that perspective. The other thing is that the environment that we’re working in is in constant states of flux. I’m thinking about policy changes or dynamics in the political environment or other macro trends that really do change how we need to be thinking about market access and our strategies as we develop them. There’s lots of challenges within the role, that keeps it interesting.

Q.12 Would you say you've had to overcome any barriers or obstacles as part of your career journey?

I can answer this from a personal perspective. We are talking a bit about women and their career journey, so there’s some examples I can think of which are related that have probably changed the trajectory of my career.

And it does come back to I’m quite thoughtful about the people that I work with and the managers that I work for. And I really want to work with people that I respect and I trust. And, we’re quite open about our own ethos and values. So that is important to me. And I think these examples show why that’s been helpful.

The first example was just as I was getting my first opportunity to move from an LOC role into a global role, and I was going through the interview process and very excited about this, and actually going through that process, I found out that I was pregnant and I thought, all sorts of thoughts.

I felt stuck and a bit compromised because I was hopefully going to work for somebody that I really respected and trusted. Yet, I knew that I was at the early stages of pregnancy and that in eight months time I was going be gone, and I thought that was going create problems for them.

All of these barriers and assumptions I was creating for myself. And actually the job offer came in. And I initially refused it, right? I said no to the job offer. But thankfully the hiring manager at the time, took the time to really understand. I think he was a bit confused as to why I wasn’t going to accept it and took the time to have that discussion with me and all these barriers that I’d put up for myself, we actually worked those through and thankfully I did come around to accepting that job offer and went from there. 

So I thought that was one example of maybe self-imposed barriers, but it did work out in the end.

It’s something that I’ve carried through, to really try and understand what’s going on for the people that I’m working with, because, you don’t want to lose good talent because people are being forced to make choices between things that might be happening outside work as well as inside work.

I think it’s important that we do have these conversations so we can keep a well-balanced, diverse workforce of people, of all experiences.

Q.14 If you could go back in time to the earliest stages of your career, what advice would you give yourself? Is there anything you'd do differently knowing what you know now?

I think if I could go back in time to the earlier parts of my career, I would’ve leveraged the opportunity of working in a global company to embed myself in different countries and local operating companies.

I’ve done that a bit. Obviously I’ve moved to the UK and I’ve settled here, but I think I’d love to go to somewhere completely different like Japan or something, and really embed myself in there and just have some great experiences traveling a little bit more.

Like I say, that door is not closed. It just becomes more challenging when you’ve got family and other commitments to make those moves…but you never know!

Q.15 What's on the horizon for market access from your perspective?

There’s a few things on my mind. We’ve talked a bit about the policy shifts. I think there’s a lot going on in that space in some of our major markets that are going to impact, of course, those markets, but globally how we engage with our policy, colleagues and how we engage with our LOC‘s just to make sure that we’re part of that conversation and really understanding the implications of some of those policy shifts.

The other thing that I’m personally interested in is how we leverage the role of digital and data and analytics and how we’re thinking about that. How we leverage tools to help our ways of working and operating and becoming more efficient, but also in the data that we’re generating to increase the value of our assets. There’s obviously tons going on in that space, but I think there’s more to come and more to do.

Finally, I think it’s about the role of market access. As we’ve talked a couple of times through this podcast, there’s an integrated core function within the organisation.

We need to be developing leaders that have both technical competency but also the business acumen to be successful in the role. I think that’s really exciting because we start to see that at enterprise level decisions are being made and market access can influence those with an access lens.

For the complete interview with Clare, click here. Explore other episodes in the Women Leaders in Market Access podcast series here or search ‘Market Access Matters’ on all major podcast directories.