The rise of no-see physicians has challenged pharma companies to rethink their traditional approach to field-based sales. Data from ZS’s AccessMonitor shows that only 46% of physicians meet with sales reps. This reduced access is compounded by a weariness on the part of doctors to promotional pitches. The average physician is more likely to respond to information that’s immediately applicable to their daily clinical practice. In particular, prescribers value information from peers or key opinion leaders (KOLs).

To break through the noise, brands need to create high-value content that’s relevant and deliver it through a trusted source. One such channel is speaker programs. Pharma companies typically use speaker engagements to promote and educate doctors about their drug therapies. Often delivered by their peers, speaker programs help doctors stay up-to-date on the latest research. Attending these events can positively incline a physician towards a brand. Designed correctly, speaker programs are an attractive option to reach and educate providers.

It follows, then, that data on speaker programs can be used to identify affinity between health care providers (HCPs) and pharmaceutical manufacturers.

Multiple Myeloma drug IQVIA(IMS) monthly sales trends

Multiple Myeloma drug IMSmonthly sales trends.Sales in March,June, September, and December are normalized to a 4-week basis to better compare with the other months.MultipleMyelomadrugIMSmonthlysalestrendsSource: Morgan Stanley research report: Major Pharma Oncology Charts, July 2018

To illustrate this, we analyzed data from the Sunshine Act of 2010 about events involving the 6 most common Multiple Myeloma drugs from 2015 to 2018. Sales data from IQVIA shows that, in this space, Celgene’s Revlimid is king with J&J’s Darzalex being the young upstart. Celgene’s own Pomalyst hasn’t shown the expected traction, with other drugs still not posing a serious challenge to Revlimid.

Analyzing event data

The data from Open Payments (Sunshine Act) validates the sales trends - marketing spends at events for these drugs track the sales trajectory. Darzalex has seen continued investment which has paid off with good growth in sales numbers. With decreased focus on Pomalyst, we can assume that Celgene is doubling down on Revlimid.


Number of conferences sponsored by each brand from 2015-2018

The other part of the equation are the people who are actually the target of these events - speakers and attendees. The trends in event data more or less correspond to the data we can gather about speakers and attendees. Plotting the number of speakers and attendees respectively by drug, the numbers further indicate the increasing focus of Celgene on Revlimid and the increased focus on Darzalex as a supplement and replacement for Revlimid.


Number of HCPs that attended conferences for each of the brands from 2015-2018


Number of physician speakers that spoke for the brands from 2015-2018

The nature of speaker-attendee relationships

Calculating the number of speakers and events by brand is just one component of the story. What’s more important is mapping the networks of influence between doctors, i.e., which physician is influential in their peer group for a particular brand. The Compile blog has advocated the use of graph data to understand the real world interactions.

To illustrate, we generate a graph of speakers, attendees and their relationship to each other to see if any patterns emerge. The graph below shows the network of HCPs who have spoken about a specific drug and the attendees who have attended those talks. Computing an influence score for each relationship and plotting this graph generates a striking image and useful insights.

The size of a node is proportional to that HCPs influence over the peer community. Some speakers are respected within the community and have influence over a large number of HCPs. Some other speakers function as bridge nodes, linking multiple clusters of HCPs and exerting influence over many of them.

Influence map of speakers

Graph-based view of the network of speakers and attendeesInfluence map of speakers

From a spiderweb to actionable data

The influence score is a powerful tool that can winnow the raw list of speaker HCPs into a list of influential practitioners. By ordering the speakers by their influence on the speaker-attendee network, we arrive at the following top 20 HCPs who are the most respected in the field of Multiple Myeloma.

Leading speakers for Multiple Myeloma

Barely scratching the surface

This example has amply demonstrated the power data has and the role it can exert in marketing campaigns. The case-study also shows deeper insights that a graph-based approach can yield in terms of analyzing relationships in the real world. With superior targeting derived from data - both public and proprietary - pharma companies can better identify KoLs and their influence networks.