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Pharmaceutical market research

Synonyms: pharma market research, healthcare market research, healthcare research, medical market research

1 Definition

Pharmaceutical market research deals with the collection, analysis, and interpretation of details and information relating to the market environment of a given pharmaceutical product – in general of a medical drug. The primary objective of pharmaceutical market research is to gain as realistic and objective as possible an impression of the marketing opportunities of a given pharmaceutical product, thus enabling the identification of the chances and risks associated with its development potential as early on as possible. The testing of promotional materials – for example of ads, commercials, give-aways, etc. – is another area in which pharmaceutical market research is actively involved.

2 Procedure

The course of a market-research project can be generally broken down into the following distinct stages:

  1. Analysis of the research objective
  2. Selection of the appropriate research design
  3. Derivation and formulation of the research questions
  4. Selection of the study sample/recruitment
  5. Gathering and collation of the data
  6. Statistical analysis of the collected data
  7. Interpretation of the statistical analysis

3 Methodological classification

A distinction is drawn between quantitative and qualitative market research.

3.1 Quantitative market research

In quantitative market research, a sample of people is selected from an overall population that is as representative of this population as possible. In the case of pharmaceutical market research, this overall population is generally equivalent to the professional group of physicians or pharmacists, respectively. In practice, the sample is drawn not from the overall population, but instead from a subgroup of persons who have declared their willingness to participate in market-research projects. This subgroup is referred to as the panel. In the pharmaceutical sector, surveys are typically performed using a panel of physicians or of pharmacists.

The selected sample group is asked a series of predefined questions beforehand. This enables frequencies, average values, or trends to be identified that in the ideal case yield an objective image of the opinion in this sample. The representativeness of the sample means that it is possible to draw conclusions from the results gained from the questionnaire and extrapolate them to the situation within the overall population.

3.2 Qualitative market research

In contrast to the quantitative approach, qualitative market research does not test hypotheses on the basis of predefined questions within a representative sample, but instead aims at capturing individual opinions and impressions on a specific issue as detailed as possible.

4 Collecting data

Besides the contextual-methodological distinctions, market research can also be further distinguished according to the methods by which the study data are collected:

4.1 Online market research

In the area of online market research, the survey data are collected using Internet-based survey questionnaires. The advantages of the online market-research approach lie in the lower costs involved, the greater ease of implementation, and the anonymity of the respondents. In addition, a variety of media tools – for example films, image and audio materials – can also be integrated effortlessly.

While by definition this method involves a drawback in that only those persons can be recruited into a sample who have access to the Internet, in the B2B sector this problem is today virtually negligible.

4.2 Offline market research

The collection of data in the offline market-research approach can take the form of e.g. face-to-face interviews, round-table discussions, or printed questionnaires (paper-and-pencil tests).

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