Segmentation for marketing new Alzheimer's brands


In order to understand the market potential of a new Alzheimer's treatment, and how best to market and brand the product, market researchers must segment and survey a wide range of stakeholders and customers, all of whom will have direct impact on new product potential.

Over the past decade 99 per cent of drug trials for Alzheimer's disease have failed, with only one new medicine approved since 2004. Because only symptomatic agents are available (which treat symptoms for a short period but do not address the underlying disease to slow progression), advances need to be made in developing new treatments.

Here is the current situation:

• Trials are underway for symptomatic agents aimed at improving cognition, including investigations of disease-modifying small molecules and disease-modifying biologics/immunotherapies.

• Disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) exist in other therapeutic areas but could significantly change the treatment paradigm in Alzheimer's. It is also likely that DMTs would need to be used earlier in the progression of Alzheimer's, ideally before irreparable damage to the brain. This would require biomarkers for earlier diagnosis as there are no validated biomarkers for Alzheimer's today. Certain DMTs may also add burdens, especially in the case of biologics or immunotherapies, such as safety monitoring, infusions or injections, patient training and support programmes, speciality pharmacy management and higher cost.

Pharma companies are closely gauging clinical trial safety and efficacy endpoints for these prospective compounds, as well as conducting market research to evaluate market potential for a new treatment, and inform its future brand and marketing strategy.

The importance of segmentation

In order to understand the market potential of a new Alzheimer's treatment, and develop a compelling brand, market researchers must take into account a wide range of stakeholders and customers. They must survey several different physician specialities, patients and caregivers, as well as payers, all of whom will have direct impact on new product potential.


Several specialist doctors manage Alzheimer's patients, including primary care physicians, neurologists, geriatricians, and psychiatrists/geriatric psychiatrists. All are eager for new treatments but the type of new therapy developed will govern their levels of involvement in prescribing.

Patients and caregivers

The social, emotional and financial impact of Alzheimer's on patients and caregivers/family is devastating. Due to limited diagnostic and treatment options patients are usually diagnosed in the later stages of the disease and are often too impaired to make treatment decisions. The family/caregiver's focus then becomes primarily a matter of facilitating functioning through lifestyle interventions and arranging care for the patient. So market research should examine how a new therapy would affect patient and caregiver involvement in treatment decisions across the buying process.


The cost to payers like managed care organisations and government agencies is enormous and rising at an alarming rate. In 2010 the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated the global cost of Alzheimer's at $602 billion and trending to increase 85 per cent by 2030, mainly due to increased number of dementia cases forecast. Currently the majority of the cost comes from informal care and direct social costs and only a small proportion from direct medical costs. Future treatments could significantly lower overall costs but could potentially increase direct medical costs and payers are likely to closely analyse the pharmacoeconomics of any new therapy.

Segmentation is a key tool to help researchers make sense of a large and complex market, as well as efficiently target resources, and find those deeper insights that will inform brand strategy. Previous attitudinal and needs-based segmentation research in Alzheimer's has been highly successful in accomplishing those goals.

Deeper segmentation for deeper insights

Within the Alzheimer's market, there are also divergent clusters among defined stakeholder groups in terms of opinions, goals, needs and expectations of a new Alzheimer's product. These are important additional segments to be aware of/survey. For example:

• Physicians are split in terms of Alzheimer's as a focus of their practice:

- Some physicians have a greater interest in managing Alzheimer's patients and working closely with caregivers. For others Alzheimer's is less of a focus and they are more likely to refer on.

- Physicians also diverge in their aggressiveness in diagnosing and treating early. Some will diagnose and intervene early, while others will wait until caregiver intervention or impairment is significant enough to impact daily functioning.

• In terms of a new treatment, physicians also have different expectations:

- Certain segments expect a product with minimal safety concerns while others are more willing to trade-off some risk for greater efficacy benefits.

- Some expect a new product to address problem symptoms once they occur and others are looking for a treatment they can use early to slow progression.

- Some expect biomarkers to choose appropriate patients and monitor outcomes, while others are more comfortable with clinical criteria.

• Patients and caregiver clusters have also been identified along the lines of demographics and lifestyle, caregiver involvement, physician relationship, acceptance of diagnosis and aggressiveness in management.

- Some notice early signs and seek physician counsel about ways to prevent decline while others believe it is a normal part of ageing and only seek treatment when symptoms significantly impair functioning.

- Some do extensive research, make significant lifestyle changes and seek opinions of various physicians and healthcare system providers early, while others are more passive.

- As with physicians, patient and caregiver expectations of a new treatment vary between clusters in terms of acceptable efficacy-safety trade-offs, what outcomes they expect and how early they are willing to initiate treatment.

• Payers diverge in their evaluation and coverage of Alzheimer's products.

- Some cover symptomatic therapies with limited restrictions while others have tighter controls based on a range of criteria, such as specialist referral, patient type severity, length of treatment, documentation of effect and therapeutic step requirements.

- Payers also differ in their view of cost-benefit for a new treatment and use different quality of life and pharmacoeconomic models.

Segment, test, insight. Segment, test, insight.

Stakeholders choose brands that solve particular problems, and tests show that, psychologically, when two brands exist, individuals stop looking for more. As the need for new Alzheimer's treatments grows, the market will become more crowded for pharma companies and segmentation will become an ever more useful tool in market research, drug development, brand building and marketing.

To develop a new Alzheimer's brand and stand out from the crowd, the process of segmenting customers into detailed groups will generate insights into the key things that targets need to see in new treatments, and therefore how the branding should be defined and which segments will drive uptake.

About the author:

Denise Armadoros is research director at The Planning Shop international (TPSi), a market research-based brand consultancy. She has nearly 20 years' experience in market research using creative quantitative and qualitative methodologies to explore complex marketing issues in the life sciences. She helps clients build successful central nervous system (CNS) brands after years of researching healthcare providers and patients across various categories related to CNS and the brain such as Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis and psychiatric disorders.

Contact Denise at + (215) 491 9679 x116 or at or

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Linda Banks

21 January, 2015