Fiza Bari is a senior market research manager at Zitter Insights, a unit of MMIT, leading the Pharmacy and Therapeutics (P&T) Perspectives team. With her team, she recreates a real world experience by allowing pharma clients to be a “fly on the wall” during a live P&T review. Bari, who holds a bachelor’s degree in molecular medicine and a master’s degree in pharmaceutical sciences, also works on custom market research projects, tapping into Zitter’s robust network of panelists for everything from quick pulse surveys (Zitter’s Payer Rapid Response) to large surveys, which help pharma clients tackle market access challenges.

Q: What’s your day to day like?

A: It’s very dependent on project load. It can be a day where I’m working on multiple projects at the same time, or if I’m not working on multiple projects I’ll be working on proposals, or targeting for potential new sales. It really just depends. Right now, we’re gearing up for a June 1 session on Multiple Sclerosis and NASH (Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis), working with our panel team and getting our committee and specialists recruited. I’m also wrapping up a quantitative payer study that we’re doing for a pharma client.

Q: Can you walk us through some of Zitter’s P&T solutions?

A: When a manufacturer is looking to launch a new product, or if a competitor is launching a product, we recommend clients conduct a P&T Perspectives around six months to a year before the new product launches. What we’re able to do is replicate what happens in the real world at a payer organization, where they meet and review products. We can simulate a health plan, a PBM or an integrated delivery network; it just depends on the situation.

The meeting starts with a clinical pharmacist presenting the disease state overview, and the current products on the simulated plan’s formulary. They will then provide an overview of the products that are being reviewed, including a summary of the clinical trial data. Disease state specialists then provide their opinion on how they would prescribe the product(s) being reviewed. The clinical pharmacist closes the meeting by providing clinical recommendations for the product(s) for formulary review, then a contracting pharmacist presents current utilization of any existing formulary products, and three pricing scenarios, which can include contracting offers if applicable. The committee then votes on each scenario. The manufacturer gets to see how a simulated plan will review its product in a double-blinded manner. This candid feedback can then inform the client’s value proposition and validate pricing assumptions.

Q: What’s exciting about Zitter’s new relationship with MMIT?

A: I think because MMIT has never ventured into custom market research before, we’re really able to provide solutions for those clients whose questions can’t be answered through policy data alone. MMIT was always one of our competitors, especially when it came to policy data. Given the technology expertise that MMIT has, it is going to be exciting to see how we can improve our operational processes, which can help grow the business. Before, we were more of a boutique style market research firm without the advantage of having that technological backbone.

Q: What industry trends should clients be looking out for?

A: I think with managed care, it’s always evolving. One of the bigger trends last year and one thing that we’re tracking is copay accumulator programs. We’re trying to understand the impact of these programs, especially for clients with high-cost specialty products. It’s a big concern for them if their patients can’t afford their medications because of these programs. It has a ripple effect, because it can impact the patient’s adherence. When issues like this come up, it’s not just impacting the manufacturer, it also impacts patients, and it’s important to remember that.

Q: Any buzzworthy indications to watch out for?

A: I think payers are excited about NASH. There are no FDA-approved products in that category, and it affects a lot of people. It’s not a rare disease, and there are four manufacturers coming out with products in the next two years.

It’s going to be really interesting to see how our P&T Perspectives committee reacts to the data and how they review the new products on formulary. We’re not really sure how these products are going to be priced right now, but it will be interesting to watch the committee have that conversation. Just the fact that there’s four products coming out in a category that has no treatments is huge — it’s a lot of competition.

It will also be interesting to see if NASH manufacturers follow the non-specialty pricing trend that we saw in the chronic and episodic migraine category last year. Amgen’s Aimovig came out with non-specialty pricing, so that definitely impressed payers. Historically, specialty products have always come out with high pricing, so they might be setting a trend there where other manufacturers will be under pressure to come out with non-specialty pricing as well.

Q: What is your favorite part of the job?

A: It’s the most challenging part — just keeping afloat with my workload on so many different kinds of projects. It’s why I wanted to join the custom research team, and it’s why I’ve been on the team for four years. Because of our unique position and the fact that we’re working on everything, I’m always learning. I get to apply my scientific background to highlight key clinical benefits of new drugs, and merge that with understanding the financial impact new products have on the marketplace.

Q: What do you like to do outside of work?

A: I have a two-year-old daughter and another one on the way, so I am kept busy! I like to hang out with my daughter and my husband. We’ve had a cold winter, so we’ve been doing a lot indoors. I’m looking forward to summer and getting back outside!

by Carina Belles