Almost every agency will swear up and down that it has rare-disease clients or is actively looking to add some. Bringing these kinds of drugs to market isn’t easy, so agencies that can handle such assignments are presumed to have something on the ball.

That’s partially why The Access Group, with 20 years of experience in managed markets, finds itself in such an envious position.

“Rare-disease products need a great deal of support, especially when you think about how expensive they are,” says agency CEO Eric Bishea.

The Access Group received an infusion of experience last year when its parent company, the private equity firm Water Street Healthcare Partners, added two organizations to its holdings: pharma pricing consultants Alliance Life Sciences and market access intelligence company Health Strategies Group.

Bishea believes these capabilities complement The Access Group’s strengths — management consulting, managed markets support, medical education, and sales training.

access group agency

“[There’s] this big integration to elevate value to clients,” he says. Water Street might not be finished with its buying binge: Bishea hints that “as we add new services to the company, that’s going to help us grow.”

In 2017, The Access Group saw revenue rise 6.5% to $33 million from $31 million the year prior, and added four people to its 2016 sum of 134. The agency added 15 new accounts. Mainstays include AstraZeneca, Biogen, Celgene, and Amgen.

Some of that growth was driven by the agency’s management consulting business, Bishea reports. “That segment is rapidly growing [because] more clients are looking for strategic input earlier on in the life cycle of the product.” He notes The Access Group is able to begin working with clients in that capacity as early as Phase I or Phase II. That, he adds, can drive additional business opportunities in later stages of the drug-development process.

“There is more demand from the marketplace to have access and reimbursement established before the product has been established,” Bishea explains. “You can have a great product — but if you don’t have access, it will be a failure.”

Bishea predicts a double-digit revenue jump for The Access Group in 2018. He sees growth coming from its managed-markets business as well as its work in patient comms. As for the medical comms side of the business, he says “patients are becoming more of a factor in the decision-making process of a product being prescribed.”