Finding your market early can shape orphan drug marketing

In our last post, we discussed the tricky business of finding your market in the world of rare disease and orphan drugs. We discussed that “traditional” pharma doesn’t have to find its patients. Rather, it has to strategize on which of the millions of known (diabetes, cardiac, reflux…) patients to target. But in rare disease, we might not know of more than a few hundred patients at the start. At Vencore, we are using sophisticated analytics to help companies find new patients – those previously undiagnosed in the medical system.

The question remains, however, as to when to implement these tools. How early in the process of orphan drug development should we be looking for more patients? When should we analyze hundreds of millions of patients’ records to define the patient’s journey further? Should it be at the point of discovery of a new molecule? Phase I trials? Should we wait until the drug is coming to market? We don’t know what the sweet spot is yet, but it makes sense that earlier is probably better. Certainly we should know as much as we can about our market -- in the form of finding patients and understanding how they interact with the healthcare system -- before there is a marketing plan in place, and before a sales force is hired.

The information that can be gleaned from big data with powerful analytics can guide the geographic location of sales staff, the location of clinical trial sites, the background/education requirements for sales personnel and the adjustments needed to manage patient attrition in clinical trials. It might also help to justify a company’s roadmap to investors.

We’ll talk more next time about a company that adjusted its sales force and marketing tactics based on this data, and reversed its slumping sales.

Tara Grabowsky, MD
Chief Medical Officer