Big data helps prove the value of new medicines

By | 3 minute read | July 24, 2018

pharmaceuticals in puzzle piece

I love solving puzzles. I think that’s why my career has continually focused on some aspect of research. I love finding answers, but the process is exciting, too. Sometimes our clients come to us at SmartAnalyst with a vague but intriguing challenge. My job is to help them refine their questions and find the answers that will guide them to a solution for their problem. Right now, I’m working with some of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world to help them continue to provide value in their highly competitive marketplace.

Outcomes research in the pharmaceutical industry

Most people are not aware that even after a new medicine has passed through FDA testing and approval, pharmaceutical companies still need to prove the value of the medication to the market. They already know how well the drug worked in clinical trials under controlled conditions. But they need to understand how the medication performs under real-world conditions and to understand the marketplace in which it is used and sold.

At SmartAnalyst, we provide strategic, market and real-world evidence-based analysis to our pharmaceutical clients. My job is to oversee what we call outcomes research or real world evidence. This research is conducted post-clinical trial, taking place in the real world. It’s becoming more important to the industry, and companies often need these research results for FDA submissions. They may have to prove the value of the medication to insurers or payers like Medicaid and Medicare, particularly if it is more expensive than existing alternatives.

Keeping in mind that some of the medications in question have just recently received FDA approval, finding the necessary, up-to-date data on their real-world use is a challenge. It might take six months to a year for the new drugs to appear in many databases, depending on how often they’re updated. Instead of trying to find, gather and analyze the data on their own, companies come to us. We understand the data and know how to analyze it and create a research program around it.

Big data analysis unlocks the answers

Different clients have different questions, so how do we ensure that we are looking at the right data for their research questions? We’ve chosen IBM Explorys as our go-to analytical database. Explorys provides us with constantly updated, de-identified data that resides in a cloud-based, HIPAA-enabled platform. This massive data repository allows us to search the complete health records of patients including prescriptions, hospital stays, lab tests and more.

We can quickly find the most recent data about the disease or drug we are researching. Our clients don’t have to wait six months or more to see how patients are being treated. Furthermore, we can provide insight into competitors’ products, as well as the marketplace landscape for that class of medication.

For example, a drug may have had a high efficacy rate in a clinical trial setting, but the Explorys data may show that the prescribing regimen is too strict and patients aren’t taking it as prescribed, which could lead to an education program or a reformulation of the medication. Similarly, a drug may work, but at current pricing, patients and doctors are choosing a competitors’ product. These kinds of insights help our clients understand the marketplace and therapeutic landscape much better. They can then pinpoint the steps they need to take to prove the value of the medication to physicians, payors and patients.

Our research helps clients understand real-world drug utilization. In one case, the manufacturer had targeted only dermatologists for selling its product. However, we showed that in the community setting, approximately half of all prescriptions came from general practitioners. This allowed the company to rethink and expand its market targeting strategy beyond dermatologists.

Solving puzzles, providing value to the pharmaceutical industry

This kind of research really satisfies my personal need to solve rigorous, scientific puzzles while providing huge value to our clients and ultimately to patients. The prescription drug market is crowded and competitive. Manufacturers must constantly prove the value of their medications to stakeholders, including patients, doctors and payers. They also want to see a return on investment for the years of research and development that precede the FDA approval of a medication. We’re using the power of big data and Explorys to provide the puzzle solutions that can help our pharmaceutical clients hone their delivery, marketing and future development strategies.