Pharma marketing is a very data driven process. In a perfect world where each prescription is recorded while being disbursed/filled it would be easy to know every doctor’s support potential.
Indeed in the USA a doctors prescribing habits are known through the pharmacy chains which fill every prescription (specified drugs only). Through a third party access to the data is possible. What it means that I can say know the top 1000 prescribers of say Avastin in the country. If I am the brand manager for a product in the same category , I know the set of doctors to target for conversion.
In India however .there is a data issue. As a brand manager, I just don’t know individual doctor’s prescribing habits for sure. Instead , we are forced to rely on proxies or third party data agencies.
There are two good sources for the India market. The first is IMS data that is given by IMS a very well known global pharma and consulting company. Thir methodology is simple. They get all the Rx from a set of prescribers in tier 1 &2 cities and they extrapolate it to their number. Thus I may get to know that there are 15,000 prescribers for my molecule for my data in GPs. What it really means in their set say out of 2000 GP’s, 400 Rx’d the molecule and they extrapolated it to 15,000. Their is also data from stockists in regions.
The other source is SMRSC ( Strategic Marketing Solutions and Research Centre (SMSRC). They have a set of doctors and they reveal actual numbers. So we can see actual Rx number for their sample set and see changes. This data thus is in a way more direct. However it hampers analysis also as its part of a market. SMSRC also does the indication very well.
What the brand manager has is the internal company data and externally provided data for sales to stockists(primary) and sales from stockists to retails shops( secondary).
Tertiary ( sales from retail shops to consumers) can only be approximated and rough estimates provided by polling by field sales personnel at pharmacist shops. This is more of a field feedback loop for the sales rep for his performance and cannot be used significantly for analysis and product management by the brand manager.
As a pharma brand manager, my first metric was sales performance and whether it was following the expected trend. Any deviances needed to be explored. The external data was used a hygeine check on the brand health and also to correlate marketing campaigns success.
Disclosure: I worked in the Indian Pharma sector presently with exposure to the the US healthcare and pharma market too. All opinion expressed here is my personal opinion