Top 5 Mistakes in Pharma Competitive Intelligence


Based on the pharma CI studies I have worked on, I am sharing with you the most common mistakes in pharma CI and tips to avoid them.

Top 5 (Drum Roll….)

#5.  Assigning a numerical probability to the likelihood of a competitor initiative taking place

Example:  8 out 10 people you speak to advise that your competitor will not be adding a new indication within the next 6 months. Consequently, you assume that there is only a 20% chance that the competitor will do so, and allocate budget funding to other initiatives.

Consequence: Your colleague uses this estimate for planning their marketing budget. Yet it turns out that the competitor does add a new indication. Unfortunately because of your false assumption, there is little money left in the budget to offset this new threat.

Tip: Instead of assigning a probability to the likelihood of a competitor initiative taking place, use adjectives (e.g. “unlikely”, “somewhat likely”, “likely” “very likely”) to categorize your intelligence analysis.


#4. Assuming that since the majority of respondents say one thing, the dissenting respondent is wrong

Example: Speaking to industry contacts you conclude that a new competitor is not facing delays in their planned launch. Nonetheless a McKesson rep disagrees.

Consequence:  You assume the majority are correct and initiate a counter plan (e.g., hiring more reps, updating sales messaging). However the McKesson rep is correct. Health Canada delays the competitor’s launch 9 months. Your increased spending is for naught.

Tip: Never give into”Group Think”. Chase down all leads.


#3 Investigating a competitor only once.

Example:  You work for a medical device company.  A pharma company recently acquired another medical device manufacturer. Your intelligence suggests they are not planning to add marketing or sales staff. But you only do1 dive vs. tracking the new competitor over 6 months.

Consequence: 4 months after your report the competitor hires 7 specialty reps, doubling their sales force.

Tip: Things change quickly in pharma. Tracking your competitor 3, 6, 12 months vs. one off is prudent.


#2  Focusing on traditional competitors  vs. non – traditional as well

Example: The patent on of your diabetes drug will expire next year. You decide to research only the well know Canadian generic companies.

Consequence: “CIPLA” (India) blindsides you by launching 6 months sooner than the generic companies you’re tracking.

Tip: Non-traditional competitors can blindside you. Check them out as well.


#1 Tipping off the competitor

Example: You call and call and call your competitor asking if they have submitted a notice of compliance to Health Canada.

Consequence: The competitor figures out that they are being “scoped”. They fast track sales force training so that their reps can meet physicians (your customers) sooner.

Tip: Avoid putting in too many calls into your competitor about the same topic in a short period of time.


Final Thoughts

Chances are, you will make mistakes. CI is not an exact science and turning information into intelligence is not an easy challenge.

Temper your CI inquiries by providing clear goals and well documented assumptions, broadening your sources of information, and understanding the limitations of CI.


Thank you for reading this blog. Please contact us if you have any questions.


David Lithwick