Research Goes Global - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Research Goes Global

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.

Have any TNS offices been successful in accomplishing that goal? Our group in Germany offers an example of how to work in a more integrated fashion with pharmaceutical companies. That group interfaces with market research teams, but it also works with brand managers, facilitating workshops with them and the various country leaders to help them derive value from the research and think about the actions they need to take in their respective areas of responsibility.

In order to do that, clients not only have to value and pay for the research, they have to value and pay for the workshops.

Which of industry's issues most affects market research? The dynamics in the marketplace are changing. The world of the past is exactly that—the past. We're dealing with fewer new products. There are so many established brands that are losing patent protection. The most recent safety-related issues, with Vioxx being the trigger, will probably result in FDA being more conservative. That may not mean there will be fewer new products, but it does mean they're likely to come to market more slowly. To compound that problem, there's added pressure on the cost of drugs in the United States. I don't foresee any of this going away in the short term.

How will drying pipelines change the way pharma companies conduct research? I expect pharmaceutical companies to say, "I can't hang my hat solely on new products. I need to ensure that I'm doing the best to optimize the pipeline and doing the best with each and every brand I have in the market."

So they will start to see performance management as a key area, which allows them to focus on in-market brands and ensure that everything is being done to optimize those products in every market in which they're operating.

How do you define performance management? Making every opportunity work. Making sure the sales force has everything going for it. Looking at what companies already have as assets to see where else they can leverage them.

We see it as an emerging area where there are not yet fully formed solutions in the marketplace. But we think the essence of performance management lies in bringing together solutions from different parts of the healthcare division to form a cohesive program. We're focusing on brand performance and sales force performance (as distinct from sales force effectiveness) and augmenting that with our communications and pricing and reimbursement capabilities. The goal is to create a suite of services that logically fit together, talk to one another, and give clients a tool to manage the performance of a brand in countries where it is marketed.

The concept sounds great, but it must be tough to implement at a time when standards are rapidly changing. The industry isn't going to lie down and play dead. They're going to redefine how they're going to be successful, and we have to follow.

We're recognized for our expertise in stakeholder management. One of the stakeholders in pharma is the sales force. We've evaluated sales forces in Europe and the United States on several key dimensions: product knowledge, service, responsiveness, ability to provide access to important information, and so forth. We've then compared the result to how the competition's sales forces are viewed and how they stack up. You may see that you're doing well generally but your sales force doesn't deliver, let's say, the same caliber of product knowledge that the competition does. Therefore, physicians are more satisfied with the competition and tend to prescribe their drug more often than yours.

You have an opportunity to better train your sales organization. You might then ask, "If I improve my performance on this dimension, how much is it going to cost me? And how much am I going to get in return?"

Volumetric forecasting will help clients answer those questions and assess their sales forces in ways they may not have in the past. And once we've identified the key measures they need to maintain, we can track them on an ongoing basis so they can ensure that the things in which they're doing well continue to do well and those areas in which they need improvement are seeing improvement and increased productivity.

Information Industrialist Elaine Riddell began her career in 1974 at Abbott Laboratories in Montreal, Canada, and rose through the ranks to become manager of sales administration in 1979. She made the switch out of Big Pharma and into market research in 1982, when she joined IMS Canada as a senior account executive. Riddell flourished at IMS during her more than ten-year tenure there, rising to product director of the market research division, vice-president of finance, administration, and operations, and then vice-president of marketing for IMS America. In 1993, she became president of Market Measures Interactive, and then in 1999, CEO of the research behemoth NOP World Health. Since 2003, she has served as CEO of TNS’ Healthcare Sector, the largest primary research provider to the healthcare industry.

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