Real-Time Response

Armed with the right data, marketers can quickly react to changing prescribing trends.
Sep 01, 2004

Physician behavior chages rapidly
Last year, the industry spent a record $30 billion on physician and consumer marketing. But the question remains: Are pharma's promotional initiatives hitting the mark? Few executives know—or at least know in time to do anything about it. That's why marketers should use cutting-edge, real-time data that better reflect the prescribing environment and help improve their company's bottom lines.

This article reviews the metrics companies currently use and introduces new tools that offer marketers a real-time understanding of physicians' prescribing behavior. Armed with that knowledge, they can measure the effectiveness of their promotional tactics and respond accordingly.

Old School: Track the Score

Precise measurement of a promotion's impact requires targeted physician Rx data and the ability to track the right metrics. Fortunately, the quality of the data used by pharma marketers to track not only their own promotional activities but those of their competitors has dramatically improved since the 1980s. At that time, all that was available were defined daily dose (DDD) data, which provided a historical measure of aggregated sales, but didn't allow companies to track prescribing by geography or physician specialty.

Physician behavior chages rapidly
In the 1990s, both total (TRx) and new (NRx) dispensed prescription data became available, first at the pharmacy level and later at the physician level. While TRx tracks all prescriptions, NRx tracks new prescriptions—that is, all scripts written except refills. However, the NRx also includes renewals—the script patients get when they run out of refills. Depending on the therapeutic category, renewals can comprise a large percentage of NRXs. The availability of such data represented an enormous advance, allowing marketers to analyze sales across therapeutic class, by micro-geographies, and by physician specialty and rank. " Companies now consider TRx and NRx to be gold standard metrics in tracking "the score"—how much has been sold by whom. In particular, marketers watch NRx share to indicate new business, shifts in market share, and prescribing behavior. Nevertheless, relying on NRx share for these purposes is fraught with problems.

The inclusion of renewals in NRx data distorts our understanding of the promotion-sensitive segment of the market: new patients and those switching therapies. Renewals represent the historical response to promotion, and since they can represent a large percentage of NRx volume in many therapeutic classes, they mask the impact of current promotion on physician prescribing behavior. This often makes it impossible to adjust marketing activities in time to make a difference in share trends.

NRx data are at least a month old. Many marketers think that time lag isn't significant because they believe physician behavior doesn't change very rapidly. But, with newer, more sensitive metrics, it is now possible to detect changes in prescribing in the "new Rx" segment of the market in real time. Recent examples of successful marketing events and promotional campaigns demonstrate that, in fact, contrary to most marketers' beliefs, physician behavior often does change rapidly—and not always as one assumes.

New School: Real Time

After the super bowl
Pharma executives can now use a metric called "new written prescription" (NWRx) share, which only measures the new prescriptions written by physicians, rather than those dispensed at the pharmacy.

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