Health / Pharma

Big pharma plus big data could equal big savings

Fifteen percent of Netflix Inc.’s 44.4 million global subscribers watched the second season of “House of Cards” the day it went live.

But Netflix wasn’t surprised. Before it invested in the series, a Venn diagram of viewers’ watching preferences had already predicted a series directed by David Fincher, starring Kevin Spacey and based on a British TV series would hit the sweet spot.

The data mining technique Netflix used relies on “big data,” a fairly recent buzzword. Predictions based on big data analysis are being made in the stock market, the auto market, at the box office and in political elections.

Now “big pharma,” comprising the largest drugmakers in the world, is on the cusp of this new frontier. McKinsey & Co. Inc., a global consultancy, has predicted big data could reduce research and development costs for pharmaceutical makers by $40 billion to $70 billion.

“An era of open information in health care is now under way,” McKinsey said in a research about the big data revolution.

There are plenty of data sources for big pharma to tap into. Thousands of online patient communities grouped by various diseases now exist online. connects more than 220,000 patients in more than 2,000 condition groups. The Association of Cancer Online Resources links more than 200 cancer support groups.

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