Market Research Roundtable

Using Research to Understand a Changing Marketplace
Mar 01, 2006

Understanding how drugs are bought and paid for has always been a bit complicated. People used to say that pharma had two customers—physicians and patients. Only one of them used the drug, and neither of them knew the price. My, how times have changed. Now the industry has so many customers, it needs to stop and get to know them all over again. And that's at a time when drugs worth tens of billions of dollars are going off patent. To map pharma's shifting landscape, Pharm Exec convened a group of top market researchers to discuss the issues shaping an evolving industry. Topics ranged far and wide, from the advent of Medicare Part D, to the new focus on adherence, the role of international markets, even the brave new world of marketing to seniors' children.

Our panelists are using research to understand this complex marketplace. They are seeking to understand the confluence of factors that are reshaping pharma's business models as much as they are changing the research profession itself, including:

  • A changing customer mix in which payers become one of pharma's primary customers, alongside physicians and patients. This complicates the network of influence, forcing companies to better understand their target audiences' patterns of interaction.
  • The arrival of the Medicare Part D drug benefit for seniors, which compels the industry to find new ways to price and sell their products. Part D poses unprecedented coverage challenges, like mandated generic usage and step therapies, and, if not handled carefully, may bring about new restrictive pricing mechanisms.
  • More competition, which requires companies to obtain better information about their customers faster. Market researchers must work seamlessly across the many silos of the organization, but serious questions remain. For one: Can the current talent pool deliver integrated insights?

Pharma sets sail into uncharted waters. Can companies turn unknowns into opportunities? Can they deliver a long-term strategy for their brands and chart the course forward for industry? Grappling with the industry's big questions, Roundtable participants share their thoughts and questions in the following edited transcript.

The Customer Ecosystem

Clinton: Who are pharma's customers? What are the new ways of thinking about them?

Brodsky: Historically, some have approached market research on stakeholders in a siloed way, trying to understand what doctors, patients, perhaps pharmacists, and managed-care decision makers are individually thinking about in isolation from one another. But we haven't spent as much time trying to understand the connecting arrows between those groups: doctor-patient, patient-pharmacist, and pharmacist-doctor interactions. The challenge is to think of it more as a system of interactions rather than siloed parts. Ultimately, it's those dialogues that you want to understand.

Cooke: You need to understand everybody that's involved, not only the connecters. In that way, the decision to purchase a prescription—and then take it regularly as prescribed—looks more like a matrix decision-making process.

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