Understanding healthcare market research

Working in the pharmaceutical industry includes frequent use of market research and collaboration with fieldwork agencies like M3 Global Research. The M3 blog spoke to someone working regularly at that interface about how healthcare market research affects their decision making. Read the full interview:


How does market research support the development of a new therapy at each stage (of its development and trials)?

In the pre-launch phase we use market research (MR) to understand the needs of HCPs and patients, and which of those are currently unmet. We then consider whether we can monitor these gaps as part of our clinical trial data collection programme. Additionally, we research patients and allied HCPs to understand if there is an opportunity to build a support programme to better help those living with, caring for those living with, or treating those living with the illnesses we’re researching.

After a new therapy is launched, the need for market research changes. How does it continue to play a role in ensuring the best possible outcomes for patients?

Clearly, we use MR to assess the markets, and then track our penetration, so we can better understand prescribing, patient numbers, effectiveness of advertising and communications and patient types and characteristics. These activities help us see how our medicines are being used outside a trial setting. MR can tell us if there are anomalies in patient characteristics in greater numbers, as individual cases may not look unusual to a busy HCP. It is important to note we are required to report any adverse events (AEs) or product quality complaints (PQCs) through MR, which provides another layer of patient safety.

In addition, we have our own sets of goals and objectives that can only be measured using MR. One important factor in doing this is to anticipate usage so that we can forecast demand and make sure we never run out of medicine, but also whilst considering their “shelf lives” so this process needs to be carefully managed.

As the pharma industry continues to evolve and guidelines in how we interact and promote our medicines become ever more stringent, we use MR to better inform our touchpoints with customers, so that we don’t bombard them with un-necessary promotion. We are not there yet, but we hope to move more towards constructive discussions around meeting customer needs and away from “please use my product” discussions. Also, in this modern age, we are aware that different customers like to interact using different channels and media, therefore we use MR to understand which channels we should maximise use of, so the HCP does not have a waiting room full of reps!

We also use MR to understand the educational needs of HCPs, in order to build our medical education programs to deliver meaningful and useful disease area education. Finally, we use MR to understand potential opportunities to buy new medicines, or licence in from other manufacturers (some companies don’t have a commercial presence). MR will tell us if this is an investment worth making – will it address an unmet need or is it just another “me too”?

A cynic may argue that market research only exists to help pharmaceutical companies make money and it has little to do with promoting the best patient outcomes. How would you counter this argument?

I won’t pretend that market research does not help us commercially. Unfortunately, there are some companies who do not have resources to be able to run multiple projects, so will try and capture as much as they can in one survey. Our clinical trial data helps us understand where our medicines are optimal and therefore set expectations on usage – we use MR to see what is happening in the real-world, where these patients are not in a clinical trial setting and are instead impacted by the reality of their day to day lives. We use MR to ask the HCPs (and patients) about their experiences of these real-world settings and we use these outputs to help tailor our communications to identify the most relevant patients and help the HCP identify those who will best benefit from our medicines. An example might be patient adherence to medication – this could be identified as an issue during MR, where usage may differ from clinical trials and therefore may put the patient at risk from sub-optimal self-management. MR will help us send focused communication on these findings to HCPs and potentially deliver better patient support solutions.

Patient centricity has become increasingly important for pharmaceutical companies over recent years. What is it and how does market research with patients and doctors support it?

Personally, I think this is a buzz word – patient centricity SHOULD be the focus of everyone in pharma, it’s what we get out of bed for – but patient research is often the first to be cut when budgets are restricted. I believe this is a reaction to needing to inform the financial side of the business and keeping shareholders up to date, as these are how we are measured externally. MR can help us understand more about the patient side and then use this data to communicate internally about patient needs and how well (or not) we are meeting those needs. Because we are not permitted to communicate directly with patients, HCPs are the gate keepers to contact with them, and therefore are perceived to be the most knowledgeable. However, patient research can turn our head towards the important topics that may not be picked up in HCP research. Patient associations and pharma work together to support their activities and help them raise a voice when Patient Association Groups don’t have the resources to do this alone. MR can help us understand more about the patient side and subsequently use this data to communicate internally about patient needs and how well (or not) we are meeting those needs.

Thinking of a typical market research project, what types of people have a role in developing and reviewing the questionnaire before it is presented to doctors or patients?

This is very dependent on who us asking the questions. If it is for a commercial research project it will be the MR manager, medical approver, compliance, marketer or pharmacovigilance. For health economics research, everyone from the commercial research team will also be involved, plus the people responsible for outcomes research and market access. In patient research we’ll also involve the communications manager and the patient liaison team.

How will technology impact medical practice?

Original research by M3 Global Research was featured in City AM and Business Reporter this week. Our findings on how physicians think technology will impact medical practice was included in Anna Delaney’s article ‘What healthtech can learn from fintech’.

With healthcare being touted as one of the tech trends to watch over 2018, the text is built on the idea that technology in healthcare might soon have the same impact it has had in consumer’s banking behaviour.

Delaney highlights that, according to the survey conducted by M3 Global Research earlier this year, 26% of UK doctors see that investment in self-diagnosis technology will have the most impact on patients over the next five years. And she goes on to ask: will this make people increasingly independent from their doctors?

The article doesn’t fail to mention the importance of developing trust, and suggests that having trained and accredited physicians involved is key.

Click here to read the full text.

Researchers Develop Test That Can Diagnose Two Cancer Types

This is an article published by the Georgia State University.

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A blood test using infrared spectroscopy can be used to diagnose two types of cancer, lymphoma and melanoma, according to a study led by Georgia State University.

Researchers used mid-infrared spectroscopy to analyze blood serum derived from experimental mice and differentiate mice with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and subcutaneous melanoma from healthy mice and also between these two tumorous conditions. The mid-infrared spectral region of the electromagnetic spectrum is frequently used to characterize biological samples at the molecular level.

The findings, published in the journal Scientific Reports, suggest infrared spectroscopy can detect biochemical changes induced by non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a solid tumorous condition of the immune system, and subcutaneous melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer, and has diagnostic potential as a screening technique for these cancers.

Studies have found the incidence rates of cutaneous melanoma have increased in many regions and populations over the last decade, specifically 3 to 7 percent per year among fair-skinned populations. Also, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma accounts for 4.3 percent of new cancer cases in the United States. The available diagnostic regimen for both cancers, which includes tissue examination and biopsy, is time-consuming, invasive and costly, resulting in small compliance rates of eligible populations for cancer prescreening.

Developing a rapid and reliable prescreening strategy for melanoma and lymphoma is critical because early diagnosis and treatment of these malignancies improve the patients’ chances of survival. Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy in Attenuated Total Reflection (ATR) sampling mode provides high-quality results with better reproducibility compared to other vibrational spectroscopy. It has attracted scientists’ attention for its rapid and reliable detection of various health conditions using body fluid samples.

In previous work, Dr. Unil Perera, Regents’ Professor of Physics at Georgia State, and his colleagues discovered that a fast, simple blood test for ulcerative colitis using ATR-FTIR spectroscopy could provide a cheaper, less invasive alternative for screening compared to colonoscopy.

“Our final goal is to say we can use this infrared technique to identify various diseases,” Perera said. “This study shows infrared spectroscopy can identify cancer. Right now, when you go to the doctor, they do blood tests for sugar and several other things, but not for serious diseases like cancer and colitis. If you are a healthy person, there is a range that is normal. One day, we hope that even these serious diseases can be rapidly screened. Your primary doctor could keep a record of your number and check that every time you come back. Then, if there is some indication of cancer or colitis, they can do biopsies, colonoscopies, etc.”

In this recent study, the researchers used mice with lymphoma and melanoma cancers. Blood serum droplets extracted from cancerous mice and control mice were placed on an ATR crystal of the FTIR instrument. Incident infrared beams were absorbed and reflected by the serum, creating a wave that was recorded and used to produce an absorbance curve with peaks that identified the presence of certain biomarkers in the sample.

The researchers compared the absorbance curves from the control and tumorous mice and assessed biochemical changes induced by non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and subcutaneous melanoma in the serum samples obtained from Dr. Yuan Liu’s research lab in Georgia State’s Department of Biology.

The study found remarkable differences between the ATR-FTIR spectra of serum samples from tumor-bearing mice with melanoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and healthy, control mice.

The findings are applicable to humans because mice and humans have some biomarkers and chemicals in common, Perera said. In previous studies on colitis, Perera and his colleagues identified specific chemicals that changed in humans and mice when colitis was present.

Using the data collected on the biomarkers for lymphoma and melanoma, the researchers can develop detectors for these particular absorbance peaks, which doctors could use to test patients’ blood samples for these cancers.

Doctors could track a patient’s blood test numbers starting in infancy and monitor them over the years to know exactly when the numbers begin to change. To make before and after comparisons of the blood samples, the data could be entered into a computer program and available statistical analysis software would determine any significant differences. Doctors wouldn’t need to do any sophisticated analysis, Perera said.

This work could lay the foundation for further research that could lead to the development of diagnostic techniques for the health care of melanoma and lymphoma cancer patients using body fluid samples that can be collected with relatively low risks, Perera said. In the future, Perera and his colleagues would like to use samples from human patients for infrared spectroscopy studies of cancer and other diseases.

Other authors of the study include Hemendra Ghimire, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Georgia State, and Mahathi Venkataramani, Dr. Zhen Bian and Dr. Yuan Liu of the Department of Biology at Georgia State.

The study is funded by the U.S. Army Research Office, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the National Institutes of Health.

 

All rights belong to the Georgia State UniversityFeatured Researcher: Dr. Unil Perera. We would like to thank the Georgia State University for sharing this content with us.

Join M3 Global Research at ESMO and ERS

September will be a very busy month for M3 Global Research! We will be attending two large European medical congresses where we will be spreading the word about our paid studies and the work we do towards improving health and patient care.

Please save the date and pop by our stand to learn more about us. If you are already part of the M3 Global Research community, we invite you to bring colleagues to join us. We have some fun and exciting giveaways!

ESMO 2017 Congress

 ESMO

From the 8th to 12th of September we will be in Madrid for the ESMO 2017 Congress. The annual meeting for oncology professionals in Europe, in partnership with the European Association for Cancer Research, promises to provide important clinical updates where researchers and clinicians can exchange knowledge and ideas with the final goal of improving the lives of cancer patients. Come find us at STAND 214, hall 7.

For more information please access: http://www.esmo.org/Conferences/ESMO-2017-Congress/

ERS International Congress

ERS

From the 9th to 13th of September we will be in Milan for the ERS International Congress. This is the largest respiratory meeting in the world, with an outstanding scientific and educational programme that addresses researchers, clinicians, general practitioners and health professionals.

Come find us at STAND R.10. For more information please access: https://erscongress.org/

Looking forward to meeting you either in Madrid or Milan!

The M3 Global Research Team.