Ruling made in latest round of litigation over alleged data theft

Nicholas Basta

Pair of life-sciences data powerhouses are immersed in dispute over their respective data services for pharma sales and marketing

The four-year dispute between IQVIA and Veeva Systems, Inc. over physician databases took its latest turn this week. A ruling issued by a special master (appointed by a judge to oversee one or more aspects of litigation) found that “Veeva was well-aware that it was misappropriating IQVIA data;” and that “spoliation of evidence” had occurred intentionally after the litigation was initiated, among other findings. But as Veeva, in response, points out in a press release, the special master’s decision “does not decide any key issue that will come before the jury in the case,” and that “Veeva . . . is appealing the ruling to the trial judge.”

This case, which started in early 2017 when IQVIA sued Veeva for theft of intellectual property and related matters, has now gone through 350 motions and rulings (as of this week), and more are likely until a jury trial starts in 2022, with perhaps a decision in 2023 (then the appeals can start).

Wall Street is paying some attention to the trial, but the real question is whether the conflict between the two powerhouses for digital pharma data impedes the pharma industry, the companies’ main client. IQVIA notes that “Veeva remains one of the top-five holders of approved third-party agreements (TPAs) with IQVIA,” meaning that the company shares data access on behalf of pharma clients, now and going forward.

Master data managers

The dispute centers on data repositories that both companies maintain about physician access and relationships—essential information for running a pharma salesforce. IQVIA’s is branded as OneKey; Veeva’s is OpenData. When Veeva built up its industry-leading position in salesforce automation during the 2010s (it now commands some 80% of that market), it introduced OpenData as the data repository to use in conjunction with its salesforce automation. IQVIA soon sued, claiming that OpenData improperly accesses data from OneKey. Along the way, IQVIA lost market share of its salesforce automation services, now called OCE, the Orchestrated Customer Experience, to Veeva.

These data repositories, providing what is called “master data management”, require continual updating and refinement; the better the data, the better a pharma sales force using them can succeed in sales and marketing efforts. (There are over 80,000 pharma sales reps in the US, and hundreds of thousands more globally.)

The recent special master ruling (which IQVIA has put online here, makes for interesting reading, with spy-vs-spy comments on “The Shire Incident,” “The Genentech Incident” and the “DataDestroyed Spreadsheet.” But, as Veeva points out, the ruling pertains primarily to the litigants’ disputes over document discovery to resolve the dispute. The broader issue, expressed in Veeva’s countersuit, is over what it alleges is “IQVIA's unlawful tactics to retain monopoly control of data crucial to the life sciences industry and use that position to extend its monopoly into the software market.”

For its part, IQVIA sees the ruling as exposing what it claims is “Veeva’s longstanding deceptive business practices, as well as its pattern of corporate theft,” and that IQVIA “looks forward to successfully resolving our ongoing litigation for the benefit of our clients and reaffirming protections for intellectual property, innovation, and investment.”

— Nicholas Basta is Editor Emeritus and Founder, Pharmaceutical Commerce