Written by Myung Soo Kim, PhD, Research Analyst, Kineticos

Pharmaceutical companies are frequently challenged with determining the optimal clinical development path for a particular asset. Oftentimes, this determination is critical to the success of the entire organization and requires deep knowledge of the market(s) they are interested in entering. When looking to gain market intelligence, conducting secondary market research (i.e. reading and researching reports, forecasts, studies, etc.) is a natural place to start and provides a lot of insight into the commercial potential and associated risks. However, primary market research is a powerful tool that is not always leveraged when performing commercial assessments.

While anyone can see the value and importance of secondary market research, the value of primary market research is not quite as evident. Some consider it unnecessary, as they believe all pertinent information can be obtained via secondary market research alone. And, in some instances, this may be true. However, I have found that, more often than not, primary market research provides valuable insights into the market that secondary market research simply cannot provide.

By speaking directly with prescribers, payers, and patient advocacy groups, one is able to obtain a detailed and nuanced view of the market in question that may not be available through secondary market research. Details such as patient adoption patterns, payer’s willingness to reimburse, and doctor’s willingness to prescribe are examples of such details that are not readily available through secondary market research. This data is invaluable as one can forecast sales without such data, but doing so is akin to predicting the weather based only on historical data, without the assistance of a DOPPLER radar.

Secondary market research itself provides a narrow and “blurry” view of the market, it lacks the “human” element and the level of detail which can be obtained by primary market research. For example, an oral formulation entering a market without an existing oral formulation may seem like it will easily become the market leader. However, factors such as an entrenched market with patients, prescribers, and payers who are all satisfied with the current therapy options (including the pricing aspect) can heavily impact adoption patterns. This information may not be available through secondary market research and significantly impacts the sales forecast and thus the NPV of the asset. When taken into consideration, a pharmaceutical company may decide to go in a different direction than they had initially considered, or approach the development and launch of their product while keeping in mind specific factors that will influence business decisions.

From a process standpoint, KOL interviews are much more informative if they’re conducted after secondary research. Best practice is to utilize secondary research findings in crafting the discussion guide for the interviews. Additionally, KOL interviews conducted by a 3rd party interviewer that is well versed in the market ensures the data is both unbiased and thorough.

While the investment is relatively small, the outcome and findings of such research can dramatically affect the development and/or launch strategy of a drug. Conducting KOL interviews does take some time, and can present challenges from a logistical perspective, however, the benefits are simply too great to ignore. Organizations that invest in primary market research will have a clearer view of market dynamics and an advantage on competitors that forego the exercise.

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Myung Soo Kim, Ph.D., Research Analyst, is currently responsible for supporting the delivery of customized management consulting solutions to clients across the life science ecosystem. Additionally, Dr. Kim is the lead author on several Kineticos research reports.

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