Pharma Strategy Blog

Commentary on Pharma & Biotech Oncology / Hematology New Product Development

As the pharma market becomes extremely competitive with increased competition, fewer new approvals, generic threats with blockbuster patent expiries and major layoffs, making the marketing dollars go further is an imperative.

One way to do this is through smart and judicious use of competitive and market intelligence.  These approaches allow the collection of primary and secondary data sources, including key opinion leader interviews, to help form a strategic picture of the marketplace or answer critical questions that drive the brand forward efficiently and cost effectively.

Many CI companies rely on junior analysts in India and China to do the research in a bottom up approach of data gathering.  However, these anlaysts, while bright and sharp, often do not know much about the disease area in question or the nuances of the US marketplace.  Fortunately there is, however, another way.  What we prefer to do is the complete opposite i.e. a top down approach that takes the critical questions posed by the client and then create and test models or hypotheses to verify the answer.  This is much more data intensive but more rigourous.

But how is this done in practice? 

Even within my specialty, oncology and hematology, there are masses amounts of information floating around each day, and bearing in mind most tumour types are treated differently, almost as a different disease, it might be easy to get overwhelmed before you even start.  There are efficient ways of sorting out the vital nuggets though.

One really useful tool is judicious use of an aggregator such as Google Reader, Bloglines etc.  This is one of my favourite web gadgets; you add RSS feeds for journals, science magazines, industry websites and sources, company websites etc and then scan them daily for the hot new information to get a snapshot like this:

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Along the way, you can 'Star' any interesting articles for later reading or sharing with friends and colleagues.

You can also use this database to search for current information on a given topic, eg renal cancer either by list or search synopsis view:

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Once you find what you need, you can 'star' the items for later retrieval in the starred items window.  It also makes scrolling through the items very easy and much more intuitive on the eye graphically.  Interesting articles can also be viewed at a click in the expanded view, which shows a little more granular detail:

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Now, that's a powerful way to drill down for useful data.  It's a very quick and fast way of finding relevant information at your finger tips.  Of course, you can use PubMed or Google Scholar to find journal articles, but the challenge is you will often get a lot of irrelevant or highly obscure stuff on preclinical research that you have to somehow troll through to find the one nugget you actually need, like this:

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By controlling the input, ie the types of journals and magazines you want to search, you can current clinical trends or news much more quickly.

Once interesting and relevant articles have been found and starred, you can view these en masse in the starred items section as an overview for speed reading, but there is another technique I use to gather and mine the intelligence.  What you really need is a database for assimilating the selected data asa group.  Enter Evernote.

Evernote is a Web2.0 tool fantastic way to clip information on a given topic and save it in one file for easy reading and mining.  You can add tags for easier searching.  It can also house the websites, references etc that are needed for a final client report.  It makes the job so much easier.  Here's a snapshot of my Evernote database; you can see the list of notebooks on the left hand side and a sample of some articles clipped to my science notebook on the right hand side:

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There is even a new cool facility to import Delicious bookmarks – I had over 500 of them, mostly on science and medically related topics, including many on cancer.  Importing them into Evernote added to the powerful search within the overall database of information and saves me hunting through two different sets of data.

Each of these notebooks contains a veritable treasure trove of information, all stored, tagged and ready for searching at a moments notice.  It can even be used on the iPhone to answer a question quickly when a client calls with a query.  Yup, it has happened and the solution was right at my fingertips!

These are just two of the tools I use in my job on a daily basis to undertake competitive and market intelligence.  Finding trends and patterns amongst the mass of data is suddenly made a whole lot easier and faster.  And time is money for clients, especially in the current downturn when marketing dollars are tighter and scarcer.

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5 Responses to “Using smart Web2.0 tools to redefine pharma competitive intelligence”

  1. Barbara Saul

    This is so wonderfully thorough and something that can be applied to any niche sector. Truly useful article – thank you, Sally.

  2. Sally

    Thank you Babs, glad you liked it.
    Yes, this approach could be used for anything, including keeping track of blogs and websites that you like in internet marketing strategy.
    The other thing I forgot to mention was that in Google Reader, you can not only share items that interest you, but you can also email them to people. This is great for sharing something relevant to a client and provide a useful added value service.

  3. Sarah Arrow

    Hi Sally
    This is a great article, and cram packed tips.
    I think I will start setting up a google reader for blogs of interest. I will also look up Google Scholar, never heard of that before!

  4. Sally

    Glad you liked it, Sarah and Jeff. Thanks for your kind comments!
    It might come in handy for both of you – you could collect rss feeds of blogs or sites that are relevant to couriers or Sussex, for example. It provides fresh ideas and inspiration for your own sites and blogs, plus you can search the newly created database for keywords you are interested in.
    Makes it a very powerful tool for business.

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