Participants in a roundtable discussion at eyeforpharmas recent Pharmaceutical Forecasting Excellence Summit 2009 took a look at pharmas interest in entering emerging markets such as Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) and the role forecasting plays in decision making.

As Nic Talbot-Watt, former director of forecasting at GE Healthcare, points out in these emerging markets, the economy is generally in a state of growth but they are not yet saturated in terms of healthcare. And she says that offers a novel proposition as our more traditional pharma markets become more saturated, with less room for growth.

The question is, she says, that although these markets look very attractive on the surface, with the economic recession were facing globally, will these markets continue to grow? And as their economies do grow, will costs go up, making them less attractive for outsourcing and further complicating payment and reimbursement structures and patent issues that already prove to be challenging for entry?

Nich Guthrie, head of forecasting and global marketing at Astra Zeneca, says his company is taking emerging markets very seriously and has defined nine strategic markets of interest. Initial market research, he says, indicates that the aspirations of patients and even physicians in these markets are not dissimilar to those in established markets.

In essence, he says, no matter the geography, patients want to be well. But what stands out as being very different, Guthrie says, is the way in which healthcare is delivered and that translates to some forecasting challenges. Theres an extra step in some of what we do, he explains. If we think about the population, the epidemiology, the patients theres an extra step in there about access.

Financial and infrastructure challenges are common, he says. And so forecasters must put an extra filter on before they get too enamored with huge populations like the Chinese. We really only operate in large cities, so we have to filter down the potential patient population, Guthrie says. And although some of these markets dont respect intellectual property issues, he says, a lack of trust in locally manufactured products gives big brands a leg up.

But its hard to predict how quickly access might improve, Guthrie says. Marty Groen in t Woud, marketing director for Astellas Pharma, says both qualitative and quantitative data must be considered in forecasts so that we can take decisions on whether we enter markets and what kind of infrastructures we need to do so. You need some insight to get to your segmentation, to target within the segmentation and to create a value proposition, he says.

And the last step here is how are you going to deliver the value? Forecasters, Groen in t Woud says, have an extremely important role here. Entering emerging markets is a challenge for pharma on many fronts, but an opportunity that forecasters can clearly help companies evaluate and undertake at the appropriate time with some careful assessment.

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