When we consider the drug development cycle, it’s easy to recognise the importance of research and development, clinical trials or product manufacture; but it’s what happens after the manufacturing stage that ensures the right people get access to the right treatments.
Market research organisations gather information on a study, project or brand and use the gathered data to create an overview of a certain market. Often acting as a separate entity, they work on behalf of pharma companies to recognise and analyse trends and ultimately inform marketing methods or launch strategies for the treatments.
Traditionally associated with the commercial stage of drug development, market researchers work closely with marketing, sales and market access professionals in ensuring product launch. There are, however, a number of difficulties faced by market researchers that could affect the journey to the end result.
The Smaller Details
There are a number of risk factors that could affect treatment launch during the commercialisation stage, and the smallest detail overlooked during data analysis could make a huge difference to market forecasting. Trend analysis is never an exact science, and while it can inform the direction of the market, there may be outlying factors that contribute to the outcome. It’s important each detail is carefully looked at so that anomalies don’t negatively affect the project trajectory.
Ad hoc market research involves looking at previous industry trends and using them to predict consumer need for the future, but rapid advancements in medical technology can make it difficult to identify what the market might require a year or two from now. Methods for data collection are becoming increasingly dynamic; innovations such as eye-tracking, social media listening and web tracking are contributing to a digitisation of market research, and leaving behind static methods like surveys and questionnaires. Keeping on top of the latest methods of gathering real-time and relevant data is essential in providing accurate market projections.
When a drug has reached the commercialisation stage, it’s possible years may have passed since it was in research and development, so there’s an understandable eagerness from all parties involved to bring that product to market. There’s often a launch date agreed by the pharma company and/or NICE, which researchers then have to work toward to ensure the product timeline isn’t disrupted. Pressure can amount when working toward the deadline, and it isn’t uncommon to put in long hours in the weeks or months leading up to a launch.
Within the pharma industry, market researchers are often acting externally to the pharma company involved in producing the treatment, so the initial communication between researchers and the internal marketing team sets an important foundation. It’s essential that researchers get the entire picture of what the product does in order to produce meaningful market insights. There’s also the issue of communication from respondents when gathering data; it can be particularly difficult when relying on people to give natural and unbiased responses that can lead to actionable insights, particularly when dealing with qualitative data. If the research requires long-term commitment or more in-depth methods, there is also the challenge of engaging respondents in the first place, and researchers often face situations where the respondent pool are passive and unengaged which could affect the quality of collected data.
Despite the problems faced and the difficulties in providing actionable market insights, market research remains a key stage in many industries, and in the rapidly advancing life sciences field it is essential. No matter how successful a treatment is in a clinical trial environment, if it doesn’t solve an issue for a particular market and isn’t implemented in the correct way, it won’t be a success. Market research organisations ensure that pharma companies invest time and money into the right treatments, and that these treatments will be well received.