Best practices for conducting competitive intelligence in the pharma industry

Pharma competitive intelligence

The pharmaceutical industry is constantly evolving. Moreover, there is fierce competition among organizations to keep their pipeline strong in the face of patent expiry, rapid innovation, and evolving customer and patient needs. Keeping a close watch on the competition in such a dynamic marketplace is vital. But robust pharma competitive intelligence needs to be exceptionally comprehensive, credible and customized to meet the specific needs of the organization conducting it. 

In this article, we explore the best practices for conducting pharma competitive intelligence for optimal insights and decision-making. 

1. Synergistic relationship with external knowledge partners

Pharma companies often depend on market and competitive intelligence agencies to fill information gaps in their research. Doing so has its advantages. Firstly, external collaborators provide an unbiased, outside-in perspective of the market. Second, they have existing resources and the expertise to quickly sift through the noise and sense critical trends in the market environment. Such partnerships should be seen as an extension of the company’s team workflow to enable smoother information sharing and building a cohesive picture of the competitive market environment. 

As a result, CI teams can:

  • Form an integrated view of the competitive market by stitching various dimensions, including business, technology, customer, and marketing. 
  • Recognize the context, rationale, and results of individual operations across the pharma supply chain.
  • Develop skills in specific therapeutic areas (TAs) pertaining to the company, to help with CI data collection.

2. Systematic data gathering

It’s easy to find the data you need for strategic analysis in today’s digitized world. The challenge, however, lies in applying the right context while processing data so that it can be converted into actionable insights.

To do so, it’s important to first pin down on the right market segment. This could be a TA, a speciality indication/disease, a particular type of molecule, and so on. Depending on the product’s importance, use automated CI tools to pick up news and updates in real-time or at frequent intervals (i.e. daily or weekly). It’s always a good practice to track multiple news sources to capture varying viewpoints to sense opportunities and threats faster.

Be sure to incorporate detailed searches for your TA as well as appropriate specialists when setting up alerts (e.g., researchers, clinicians, investment analysts, etc.). To ensure they are still important to your priorities and approach, check your search keywords and selection techniques periodically.

Your CI strategy needs to include a systematic method of data gathering through keywords. An effective method is to begin by carefully setting your sights. Consider monitoring the following:

  • analysis unique to the TA
  • current care model
  • broad research patterns
  • start-ups and existing competitors, and
  • recent innovations.

3. Observe relevant clinical trials to support R&D processes

Observing changes in the clinical trial data published by competitors also aids in developing drug development strategies. You can do this by subscribing to receive updates of clinical trials or track trends and effects of clinical trials manually. There are various databases available for gathering this kind of data, such as NIH’s Clinical Trials database and WHO’s international clinical trials registry platform. Health economics and outcomes research (HEOR) can help further guide R&D processes.

In relevant trials specific to each TA, it’s important to track for unpredictable outcomes. Track FDA applications as well as those in other countries where each TA has established areas of testing excellence. With the vast amount of data available from databases and press-releases, you can consider both the competitor’s high-level initiatives, such as which channels they are investing in, and the tactical aspects.

It is also important to keep an eye out for new technology, properties, and treatment procedures used by your competitors in their clinical trials, as they could potentially change the market. Key sources of knowledge on patient preferences and desires, as well as ethical, clinical, HEOR, science, regulatory, and commercial information, should be closely tracked.

For instance, Netscribes worked with a major pharma company that was developing an over-the-counter (OTC) product, and wanted to know if any of its competitors were doing something similar. By analyzing clinical trial data through various databases, Netscribes was able to figure out which of it’s client’s rival companies were manufacturing similar products, and which trial stage those products were in. This helped the client plan its production timeline, and marketing strategies accordingly.

4. Confer with KOLs

Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) are a crucial source of pharma competitive intelligence. This makes it vital to identify KOLs specializing in specific markets, monitor their published work, and invest resources to sustain long-term relationships with them. KOLs provide information into treatment disparities and other unmet needs, allowing pharma companies to identify market opportunities. In many cases, their knowledge of the nature of clinical trials has helped accelerate drug research and identify scientific techniques that enable successful clinical results.

For clinical research, KOLs operate as both principal and sub-investigators, thus increasing the awareness and effect of the studies on other healthcare professionals. During conferences and sessions and as authors of articles, KOLs present the results from clinical trials. Their early involvement and knowledge of a product helps them propagate the related information to other clinicians. 

It is important to connect with not only healthcare professional KOLs in your TA, but also corporate executives, funding, patient support organizations, legislative affairs, and government commissions, to broaden your scope for information.Attending relevant conferences is a good way to connect with KOLs and understand the competition better.

In order to establish a good base for communication with relevant KOLs, first define the top conferences and schedule attendance accordingly for each TA. Moreover, identify in a timely way the key information from the conference as well as the format to be exchanged on your CI platform. Lastly, have routine debriefs after the meeting to review key details. Keep in mind that social media listening and monitoring is also a good way to know key conference details and reactions.

5. Leverage technology to increase speed-to-insight

Technology can help you get a leg up on your competition by providing data and insights faster. Machine learning/AI algorithms in cloud-based platforms automate the process of data capture from a vast pool of sources, including databases, publicly-available reports, company websites, social media, and other online assets. More advanced tools provide greater flexibility and customization in the way stakeholders wish to receive competitive intelligence to enable easier insights generation.

A coordinated and technology-backed CI process can help pharma companies utilize historical data to recognize drug development processes and acceptance rates. It also improves the ability to predict drug timelines and aids companies in adjusting the production process and strategies accordingly. 

Automated CI processes ultimately provide the R&D teams with actionable insights in a timely manner, ensuring commercial success. This, in essence, would have crucial consequences for the viability of companies as well as patient outcomes. Such a process also allows companies to sift through all the noise and recognise meaningful data patterns and trends by integrating analysts’ operational thinking and professional research with technological precision.

For competitive intelligence to drive greater agility across an organization, it should deliver on the following key areas: transparency, searchability, dissemination, and comprehensiveness. Being transparent means that the data and intelligence should be gathered from reliable and trusted sources. Next, CI experts should enable easy searchability of the information across the organization through efficient knowledge management processes.

Similarly, dissemination of competitive intelligence in an easily-consumable format is equally important to help stakeholders understand and inform decisions quickly. In order to have a 360-degree perspective of the competition, it is also vital to gather intelligence on myriad dimensions, including market, consumer, marketing and technological competitiveness.


Netscribes’ competitive intelligence services look beyond just tracking the competitive landscape for pharma companies. It helps them stay ahead by drawing out implications and suggesting outcomes for your business to act upon. Contact us to know more.

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