Data analytics that help understand what is going on now or in the past are useful, but tools with predictive power are better still. Social media analytics firm Treato last week publicly pitched its predictive power in a blog forecasting the future for Biogen Idec's ($BIIB) multiple sclerosis drug.
The MS drug, Tecfidera, hit the market on April 13 and by the end of the month early prescription data showed rapid initial uptake, prompting analysts to raise expectations for full year sales. After such an impressive start, the question now is at what level growth will stabilize. This depends, in part, on the rate at which patients switch to Tecfidera from competing drugs. Patients talk about their switching decisions online, and by analyzing this wealth of data Treato can predict whether many are likely to make the leap.
Analysis of the early chatter suggests Biogen will enjoy a good year at the expense of Sanofi ($SNY) and Teva ($TEVA). Treato found 90 online posts in which patients on Teva's Copaxone talked about Tecfidera. Three-fifths of posters were considering switching to Biogen's drug. Similarly, three-fifths of the 16 posters currently prescribed Sanofi's Aubagio are also considering taking Tecfidera instead. If these samples are representative of the broader MS patient community, Tecfidera stands to take market share from Copaxone, Aubagio and another Biogen drug, Tysabri.
Questions about how representative the sample is remain, though. Treato estimates it has posts from 5% of patients already taking Tecfidera, but these early adopters--who actively discuss their disease online--may have different views and needs than the broader MS community. Equally, it is too early for patient views on the efficacy and side effects of Tecfidera to have influenced other people with MS. This could push more people to switch to Tecfidera, or encourage them to stick with their current treatment. Treato plans to continue tracking online discussions about Tecfidera over the coming months.
If Tecfidera takes market share, it would be a public validation of Treato's social media analysis. Treato applies Big Data analytics to posts from 2,000 health blogs and forums to in an attempt to make sense of the online chatter. Clients are then given a picture of what patients want, or why they are switching drugs. Treato secured $14.5 million in venture capital funding last month to build out its platform.
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