Wolters Kluwer disengages from pharma market research

Pharmaceutical CommercePharmaceutical Commerce - July/August 2011

The business of analyzing prescriber data is consolidating around IMS Health

Of the three major research companies that collate and mine prescribing data and related market research, two are in the process of merging (with IMS Health acquiring SDI, pending federal approval) and now the third, Wolters Kluwer, is exiting the business altogether. W-K announced that it would divest the pharma part of its Health & Pharma Solutions business, while keeping, and investing in, the Health part that provides clinical decision support, journals and other educational materials. “Moving forward, we are excited about continued opportunities to deliver value to global customers through our portfolio of leading brands in content and clinical decision support, which are well-positioned to benefit from healthcare reform trends globally to support the division's growth strategy," said Bob Becker, president of the health & pharma unit, in a company statement.

Dollar figures were not discussed, but Reuters reported that the company plans to take a €106- million impairment charge (writedown of goodwill) for the divestiture. In 2005, W-K acquired NDC Health for $382 million, adding at the time that the unit was generating revenues of $163 million. (NDC Health focused primarily on prescriber data collection.) Reuters also reported that the W-K will likely sell the pharma business piecemeal; its parts include Source Patient Insights; ProMetis Market Profiler (merging patient, payer and prescriber data); Adis R&D Insight (tracking drug development), drug safety, publishing services and sales training.

If one buys into the proposition that the life sciences industry is becoming more data-intensive and driven by data mining and analytics, the announcement is a surprise. But industry insiders say that W-K tended to be an also-ran, at least for selling prescriber data to manufacturers. Reuters quoted an anonymous industry source saying that the business has been a low-growth, low-margin one for the company. With sales forces shrinking and pharma sales more of a managed-markets business, selling prescriber data on which sales commissions and market forecasts are calculated is trending toward a commodity business; the action has moved on to deeper analytics of patient behavior, payer and outcomes data.

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