18 June 2021

Healthcare Market Research and Pharma CI: Two Parts of the Same Whole

Strategic decisions for pipeline assets and brands require robust and creative analysis which leaves no stone unturned in the pursuit for insights which can make a meaningful difference.

Integrating healthcare market research with competitor intelligence can provide a more comprehensive analysis of the current and future market landscape.

As an Associate Consultant, when I first joined CHR/Vox.Bio and started working on pharma competitive intelligence (CI) and healthcare market research (MR) projects, I thought the two were not going to overlap –  they had different focus, different methodologies and different core client points of contact.

However, a few months into the company and a handful of projects later, my first impression was quickly reversed. In fact, the two are highly complementary and by integrating MR and CI we can generate more powerful insights to support strategic decision making.

Understanding the current competitive landscape in a specific therapeutic area (TA) and how it might evolve in the future is at the core of pharma CI. In CI projects, the activities, positioning and tactics of a client’s competitors are assessed to evaluate the potential threat they pose and how they can impact the client’s business. Secondary research, mostly, but also primary research, are utilised to gather information on competitors’ pipeline developments, regulatory progress, and commercial updates, thus to provide actionable insights to the client. For example, in preparation for the launch of a new rival therapeutic agent, clients require up to date information on regulatory timelines, drug positioning, launch and commercialisation strategies, so that they can make key decisions on the development or life-cycle management of their own asset.

While CI is more focused on competitors’ actions and intents, MR is more focused on customers’ actions and perceptions. The aim is on understanding patients’ and healthcare professionals’ (HCPs’) preferences and unmet needs, to identify market gaps and commercial opportunities. Primary research is central to MR, seeking to generate insights on market trends, patient journey, treatment practice, payer situation, patients’ current behaviour and preferences, and HCPs’ current practice and attitudes. Ultimately, we are helping the client make better informed decisions when developing or marketing a specific product.

In this context, secondary research seems relatively less relevant to the success of a MR project. However, in reality, it represents an opportunity to build a much more complete and actionable view of the market.

For example, when trying to increase the market penetration of a medical product, it is crucial to understand the current usage of the product, its edge over competitors, and physicians’ perceptions and attitudes. Although primary research might address all these points, conducting initial secondary research may help us to hypothesise or even answer some of our key questions, and importantly, it helps us to better define the scope of primary research.

Publicly available treatment guidelines tell us at what point of the patient journey the client’s product might be used, as well as what the recommended products are in the same setting. Secondary research, for example through clinical trial analysis, also allows us to identify and assess potential future competitors – how they may disrupt the future treatment algorithm, and what is their positioning and commercial strategy. These CI findings could then be validated during primary MR, where we could probe more for the client product’s usage, perceptions and main benefits/disadvantages over competitors, allowing us to generate a more complete picture.

When developing the launch strategy for a new device, it is critical to understand the positioning, pricing, and marketing strategy of competing products, as well as patients’ perception of the device, patients’ reactions to the product messaging, and what is considered a reasonable price according to customers. Again, while CI could help to uncover information on competitors, MR helps us to reveal more customer-related information.

A two-step approach, where primary market research builds upon secondary research findings, permeated many of the projects I worked on in the past 8 months. At Vox.Bio we gather secondary intelligence insights and integrate them with MR to gain a more thorough understanding of the market. This enables us to add more context and confidence to the primary MR findings we present our clients when they are making challenging, strategic decisions.