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patients are holding back lots of the information. And shouldn't we
have the complete story? Shouldn't oncologists and drug companies
have the complete story? We should. They should.
Additional insights for brand success
Patient research is absolutely critical to brand success: success for
the pharma companies, success for oncologists, but mostly success
brands causes higher rates of a side effect, like diarrhea, that can
adversely affect a patient's ability to live their life. When diarrhea is
bad, patients are confined to their house, and if they have a choice
between two similar products, they will choose the one with less
diarrhea. This is useful information for a pharma company as they
can then take steps to proactively find ways to reduce the diarrhea
and help oncologists and patients manage it.
Finally, patient understanding can lead to brands positively
repositioning in ways that will resonate better with patients, which
To get a clear and complete story about the challenges of cancer then also makes the physician-patient conversations more productive.
and its treatments and use the extra insights to help pharma com- Discussions with patients may illuminate brand levers that are not
panies (and therefore doctors) become more successful with their apparent simply from talking to oncologists.
treatments, we need to talk to both patients and caregivers separately
during market research, as well as the physicians.
It's a worthwhile exercise to truly understand patient perspectives
about the positives and negatives of any medications and treatment
plans, and surprisingly, even Stage Four patients are happy to spend
an hour or so on the phone sharing what they are experiencing. In
fact, for the patients and caregivers, this can be quite a cathartic
exercise. In some ways, it is easier to tell a stranger what they have
been going through rather than to tell a friend or family member.
Of course, we need to be sensitive to patients and how they are
feeling when we design our studies. It is important to be flexible:
interviews may need to happen over multiple sessions; patients may
need breaks. We also need to think very carefully about what we are
asking patients to do. It's one thing to ask them to tell us about their
experiences, it is quite another to ask them to do a series of exercises/
activities that are not clearly tied to things that matter to them.
The benefits of listening more
So, what are the benefits of talking to patients more, particularly
for pharma companies when patients are not their direct target?
It's simple. Understanding what the patients are really going
through can be illuminating.
For example, if the insights show that there is a lack of understanding about treatment plans among patients, pharma companies
can improve patient materials to really help patients and support
them through treatment. Improved patient materials can also result
in more treatment success for doctors and patients: patients are more
likely to stay on treatment and therefore, reap the benefits.
Secondly, if there are two brands with similar efficacy rates, then
it would help to know how the brands also affect the mental and
physical well-being of patients, as this extra information may have
a bearing on which drug a prescriber chooses. Perhaps one of the
Listening to a wider audience
Patient research is critical to pharma and physician success.
When seeking insights for oncology brands and understanding how
efficacious a treatment plan truly is - in its complete form: physically,
mentally and emotionally - the net should be cast wider to capture
the patients' stories as well. *
About the author - Mary Dominiecki
Mary leads the Oncology Research Group at THE PLANNING
SHOP, managing the strategic direction of the team and overseeing
all oncology research projects. Her oncology experience has covered
virtually every tumor type including solid tumors and hematologic
Before joining the Company, Mary worked in the bio-oncology
group at National Analysts Worldwide (now Naxion). She has
also held various positions serving the pharma industry, including
Clinical Publications Lead at AstraZeneca, Medical Director for
an oncology-focused medical communications agency, and Senior
Medical Writer in several therapeutic areas.
About THE PLANNING SHOP
THE PLANNING SHOP is an insight-led brand and communications consultancy of choice for the health care industry, with offices
in the US and UK.
We dig deeper, go further and challenge perceptions to generate the
insight-led business solutions pharmaceutical companies need to grow
successful health care brands.
Physicians: we need your help!
We travel the country and the globe talking to physicians. Sometimes we interview physicians in person and sometimes
over the phone. Sometimes we ask physicians to participate in online surveys. It's critically important that our research is
representative, but we know not all physicians participate in market research, only a small subset. We'd like to encourage
more physicians to participate. Share your knowledge and insights with us so we can help bring better brands to you!
And encourage your patients to participate. It can be a great outlet for them. If you have any questions about how to get
involved or have concerns about participating in market research, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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