Research Goes Global

Jan 01, 2005
By Pharmaceutical Executive



For many in the pharma industry, information and research are key business drivers. But what drives the information business?

The answer—at least in recent years—has been globalization. As the pharma industry has taken an increasingly global view, market research companies have had little choice but to follow suit.

Today the information industry, in many ways, looks a bit like the pharmaceutical industry—with bigger companies but fewer of them. But unlike the consolidation craze that swept the industry, the extended reach of the market research industry offers some clear-cut benefits.

To get a perspective on the effect of this change, Pharm Exec talked with market research heavyweight Elaine Riddell, CEO of TNS' healthcare division, who was brought over from NOP World Health to lead the knitting together of a global healthcare unit from independent companies in 36 countries. Riddell examined how the globalization of the market research industry will allow Big Pharma to optimize global brands and help replace revenue lost to dry pipelines. But, of course, it will require companies to look at the data in new ways.

How does the pharmaceutical industry benefit from the trend toward bigger market research companies? Riddell: We've had clients say, "All this consolidation of market research organizations is nice, but how does it create value for us?"

The answer is that consolidation gives us more opportunities to leverage knowledge and be more efficient.

How does pharma realize those efficiencies? Pharma has conducted multicountry research for decades. And to appreciate the benefits of globalization, all you have to do is compare the way that market researchers used to work with today's practices.

Years ago, a US company would commission an agency to conduct a study. That agency would then collect data in various countries and present its findings back to the company.

Today, it's not just that we know how to collect data in France and Germany. We live in France and Germany. We can tap into our in-country resources who have expertise in a particular category to better understand the market dynamics.

In that way, clients want us to provide them with more meaningful assessments of individual markets, help them learn more about the market even before they start the research, and get them up the learning curve faster. In other words, they want better information faster—up-front guidance and back-end insights to better target research and accelerate the absorption of learning. They also want to be more confident that the findings can be implemented using realistic, real-world insights.

Do you expect globalization efforts to continue? Yes, and I believe they will intensify. We're seeing the world becoming more similar than different. So knowledge learned in one market can be applied to another.

It's important that organizations that help pharma make decisions can leverage their US knowledge, for example, and bring it to the other markets. By way of example, look at copayments, which have been introduced in Germany. Researchers there don't have to learn about the behavioral dynamics surrounding them. That knowledge, already gathered in the United States, can be shared with a colleague in Germany who can then determine the situational similarities and differences.

Why are market research companies expanding their consulting businesses? We sometimes hear from our clients that there's too much data and not enough information. They are saying, "Stop telling us just what the findings are and start giving us recommendations."

The other side to that equation, of course, is that the agencies would love to bring more to the table in terms of strategic recommendations. But pharma companies often don't allow the agencies to get close enough to the information they need—information that enables them to develop recommendations that will give companies a strategic advantage. As a result, we're still servicing the market research department, not the pharmaceutical company.

To get to the desired point, we need to position ourselves and be perceived not just as market researchers, but as consulting market researchers.