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We are witnessing the death of pharma marketing research and the birth of healthcare marketing research. Recently, it was announced that Novartis agreed to pay $39 billion for a controlling stake in Alcon, a manufacturer of ophthalmic products including contact lens solutions, products used for glaucoma and eye surgery devices, and equipment.   
In a Wall Street Journal article, this acquisition was described as yet another move on the part of Novartis away from blockbuster Rx drugs (the company declared its intention to become a leader in generics and vaccines) and into “faster-growing” areas of healthcare. Such a portfolio development strategy parallels corporations like Johnson & Johnson, which in the past has been significantly represented in pharma but derived only about 30%of its profit last year from this. Just as tobacco companies branched out into other areas when their core businesses declined, we can expect to see pharma morph into healthcare companies.  

How will our roles as marketing researchers change as a result? First, it is easy to anticipate that substantially less of the research we conduct will be with the traditional stakeholders, and more with other stakeholders.  

We can also anticipate being called upon to assist senior managers in deciding on the directions in which to expand their company's purview, with functions like corporate intelligence, scenario development and evaluation and forecasting taking on greater importance, and functions like the positioning of Rx products falling significantly as new product approvals continue to decline in comparison to previous years.  

The pharmaceutical market is morphing into the diversified healthcare market, and we as market researchers had best be prepared to morph with it.

Richard Vanderveer is group CEO, GfK US Healthcare Companies
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