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I've heard a lot of chatter recently about whether pharma companies are spending less on marketing research than in previous years. Most research agency execs I listened to were busy, but many had a feeling in the pit of their stomachs that if major sales forces were being cut by 10% or more, some trimming of MR budgets had to be going on as well.

Recently, I have seen two documents that help provide some insight. First was a teaser e-mail from Daily Research News Online, reporting that US MR budgets had been reduced by “an average of 22.7%,” although budgets in other parts of the world had increased enough to more than make up for this shortfall. And an article in a publication from PricewaterhouseCoopers, Pharma 2020: The Vision, discussed several reasons why pharma MR budgets might be falling in this country, including the following: First, increasingly, final dispensing decisions are based on formularies rather than on physician preferences, reducing the desirability of marketing to the practitioner and thus the need to conduct research. Second, far fewer new products are being marketed, reducing the need for concept testing. Third, the industry is expected to double in size by the year 2020, but much of this growth will come from developing countries. It might be reasonable to expect that dollars are being diverted to develop a better understanding of how drugs should be marketed in these countries.

My interpretation is that the marketplace and the MR therein are undergoing significant change, not so much in terms of downsizing, but of reallocation.The two documents will give you a better understanding of just how different the focus of our jobs will be in the near future, and why we need to get started now doing revolutionary research for an evolutionary pharmaceutical market.

Richard Vanderveer is group CEO, GfK US Healthcare Companies

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