Trial data: 5 ways to cut through the clutter

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5 things brand managers should know about their data
5 things brand managers should know about their data

Experts often possess more data than judgment.
                                           - Colin Powell

Your promotional materials are supported by data from clinical trials. Piles of numbers can intimidate even the brightest and most intrepid brand manager, so here are 5 ways to cut through the clutter and separate the wheat from the chaff.

1. Know the “trust hierarchy” of data

It's important to know that not all data sources are created equal in the eyes of the scientific and medical community. The clinical study report (CSR) is the Holy Grail of resources. It is the original and complete data source for a study, and has the most correct version of your data available.

A manuscript published in a peer-reviewed journal is the second most reliable source. Non-peer-reviewed publications and posters presented at congresses share the bronze medal in data reliability.

2. Have a close relationship with your peers in medical affairs or scientific communications

As a brand manager, you are not tasked with being your data's keeper. If one day you quickly need to obtain a study protocol, CSR, or publication, know whom to ask.

Managers in your company's medical affairs or scientific communications departments handle the numbers on a daily basis. Get to know them.

3. Statistical vs. clinical significance

Suppose a test on some of your data concludes that P<0.05, making the result statistically significant. Does this mean the result is important? Perhaps not.

A physician may see a small effect size and decide that the difference is simply insufficient to be relevant or influence clinical practice, no matter the P value. Don't just follow the statistics, do your homework to learn what your audience will believe.

4. Know what study endpoints mean to physicians

Your studies likely have several primary and secondary endpoints. Some may be germane to the way your target physician practices medicine, while others may simply indicate to a reviewer or the NIH that you've covered all your bases.

Does a physician care more about the way your drug influences a particular biomarker of the disease, or about the way your drug could improve a patient's quality of life?

Both measures can be endpoints in your study, but your brand's performance will reflect your understanding of which has greater clinical and/or emotional appeal. Conduct your research accordingly.

5. Ensure consistency and eliminate errors

It may seem a no-brainer, yet we are often surprised by mistakes and inconsistencies in the data provided to us by clients. To minimize embarrassing interactions with your med-legal review team and wasted time with your agency partners (worse yet, the possibility of errors creeping into promotional materials), start by putting the first suggestion on this list (knowing the trust hierarchy of data) into practice.

Use the most reliable data source available, preferably the CSR, and check everything against it. The fewer derivative materials comprise the supporting evidence for your brand, the more consistent and accurate the promotion will become.

Serve your brand and ensure accuracy by knowing where your data come from, what it mean, and to whom.

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