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Getting the inside track

Understanding GPs' drug therapy choices can assist in identifying potential new markets

While GPs generally ensure they are aware of the full range of drugs their patients might need, research results indicate significant differences in the number of branded drugs they would consider using in different therapy areas.

In the 32 treatment areas measured by the survey, major differences were seen in the balance of use between generic and branded treatments. There were also significant variations evident in the level of branded competition.

Across the whole survey, at least half of GPs 'knew a lot or a little' about 93 of the 121 treatments measured. Only one treatment area, restless legs syndrome, lacked any brands that were well known by the majority of GPs (only one-third felt they knew a lot or a little about Adartrel and Mirapexin, the two restless leg syndrome treatments measured by the survey). This suggests that branded treatments still have at least a foothold in most areas.

At the other end of the scale, in areas such as hypertension, NSAIDs and osteo-porosis/HRT, there was a wide choice of branded treatments with which GPs were familiar. In these three areas, 11 out of 25 of the treatments were known by at least two-thirds of GPs. Two of these areas represent quite different ends of the spectrum, as the analysis below shows.

The survey measured eight brands in the area of hypertension, and nine in osteo-porosis/HRT. While Diovan was the only hypertension drug known by the majority of GPs (87 per cent knew a lot or a little about the drug), six drugs in the osteoporosis/HRT category scored this level or higher (Calcichew D3 Forte, Adcal-D3, Actonel Once a Week, Livial and Premique and the generic alendronate). This suggests that a brand seeking to enter the osteoporosis/HRT market faces stiffer competition than one planning to enter the hypertension market.

The competitive nature of the osteo-porosis/HRT market was reinforced by the performance of the top brands on individual attributes. Calcichew D3 Forte, Adcal-D3, Alendronate, Actonel Once a Week were all rated as effective by at least 61 per cent, trusted and proven by at least 44 per cent, and at least 54 per cent of GPs said they would consider using these.

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If there was an opportunity for a new entrant, it would be for one which could outperform the existing dominant drugs in terms of patient friendliness (the four leaders scoring between 28 per cent and 32 per cent) and perhaps good value for money (Calcichew D3 Forte topped the list at 43 per cent, and Actonel Once a Week was weakest at 24 per cent).

The hypertension market looks more hopeful for new entrants, with Diovan leading on all measures. There was a substantial gap between Diovan and the second and third placed brands - Coversyl Plus and Zanidip, although generic preparations were not studied in this area.

A potential new entrant might seek to capitalise on the lower scores for 'effective treatment' and 'trusted and proven' held by the second and third-placed brands. The recent results for Champix demonstrate what can be achieved when a new treatment offering an effective and patient friendly alternative enters the market.

Early analysis of results from the July and August brand monitor data shows that Champix is fast approaching the levels of 'would consider using' enjoyed by its established competitors in the smoking cessation market.

The table opposite divides the treatment areas covered in the survey according to those that at least a third of all GPs 'would consider using.' Due to the confines of this article, however, it is impossible to expand on the various factors that determine the number of treatments in a given area meeting this criteria.

Many areas with only one 'significant' brand have a large number of generic treatments not measured by the survey.Some treatment areas may be more prevalent, include more complex conditions or have a greater need for different types of drugs. Others may require higher levels of investment to develop new treatments or be further patent expiration.

That said, many of the areas where branded drugs are still important do vary in terms of the number of 'significant' treatments they offer, from two in the area of epilepsy, three in the areas of asthma, acne rosacea and contraception and four in the areas of erectile dysfunction and eczema pruritis.

Those interested in assessing the potential for new entrants would clearly benefit from knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the established competition. Not only would it help identify which markets are easiest to enter, but also what marketing communications strategy should be used.

The Author
BrandWatch is written by Nigel Jacklin, managing director of Objective Research. The data is sourced from Pharmaceutical Brand Monitor, a quarterly survey developed by GP newspaper and MIMS. For further information on the survey contact David Saunders, Haymarket Medical Media on +44 (0)208 267 4869 or email at david.saunders@haymarket.com

25th November 2007

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