Web Traffic Analysis Reveals Hidden Biopharma Insights

By Brian Abrahams, M.D.
Published June 9, 2023 | 10 min listen

Mark Odendahl, Head of US Capital Markets Research, is joined by Brian Abrahams, Head of Biotechnology at RBC Capital Markets to discuss a new RBC ElementsTM report, “Insights from the BioWeb”, which explores the predictive potential of website traffic analysis for uncovering underappreciated market trends.

Key Points

  • Analysis of web traffic associated with biopharma companies generated valuable insights into under-the-radar sales trends, including a dramatic increase in traffic to sites recommending treatment for myelofibrosis.
  • Strong correlation between sales data and visits to patient, physician and safety protocol websites provides a useful second check when projecting quarterly sales and identifying share of voice in the market.
  • RBC Elements’ alternative approach to product data research showed increased interest in drugs for the treatment of diseases such as HIV, myelofibrosis and large B-cell lymphoma.
  • While using web traffic metrics to identify market trends is not a replacement for a prescription-tracking model, it offers valuable insights for products which lack third-party prescription data.

Disclosures and Disclaimers

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Web traffic provides insights into under-the-radar trends

In an increasingly competitive market, healthcare investors need to leverage in-depth analysis to support informed investment decisions. This is particularly important in the biopharma market, where drug sales and company valuations can be easily affected by a myriad of events, including FDA announcements, high-profile product launches and changing health trends.

Because of the complex nature of the biopharma market, analysts seeking insights into industry trends are constantly in need of alternative datasets. The RBC ElementsTM report explored what web traffic to websites associated with a range of biopharmaceutical products could reveal about hard-to-read market signals.

“Tracking web traffic data across the therapeutic categories can provide excellent proxy insights into market share and share-of-voice across the drugs in our coverage universe, which can help to predict future market dynamics.”

- Brian Abrahams, Head of Biotechnology, RBC Capital Markets

“We believe these trends can help validate direct-to-consumer spending, as well as signal market share estimates. And any major shifts in website traffic could also hint at underlying changes in the market, such as an increase in overall prescriptions, or shifts towards emerging competitors,” he adds.


Web data: A useful proxy

Although website traffic offers insights into overlooked trends, it is still not a replacement for a prescription-based model. However, web traffic data can provide a useful proxy where prescription data is lacking, such as hospital-administered biologics, rare disease drugs, and cell therapies.

“In general, a prescription-based model is likely to outperform a website traffic model, but both generally align to provide confirmatory evidence of larger trends such as directional uptake, launch success, underlying grassroots interest amongst patients and physicians, and share of voice in the market,” says Abrahams.


Uncovering insights from website traffic

The report compared web traffic for marketed products alongside competitor data and analyzed domain-level hits across a range of websites aimed at patients, support groups and physicians. It identified strong correlations and R2 values – a measure of the predictive power of data models – across a range of variables. “We were able to match website traffic to prescription trends, product growth rate and sales,” explains Abrahams.

“This provides an insightful second check when attempting to predict quarterly numbers and provides additional data which can be used to gauge direction changes for drugs that are not well-tracked by traditional third-party prescription sources.

“Website traffic metrics can also potentially provide a leading indicator for drug adoption, even before the weekly prescription data starts to reflect the dynamics,” he adds.


Web traffic reveals drug sales insights

Research also uncovered a rapid rise in competitor drug dynamics among skin disease treatments. “The traffic data corresponded with prescription data for the drugs, suggesting spikes in traffic for one drug correlated with a reduction in website volume for another competing drug. This gave us insights into where each of those drugs might be in their respective launch phases,” says Abrahams.

Following the launch of a new HIV PrEP medication, the report identified a sharp rise in interest in related products. The spike in traffic suggested an uptick of interest from individuals considering whether to start treatment with the medication, indicating the potential for growth in the PrEP market.


Web traffic data reveals dominance of leading products

Analysis of product websites serving the myelofibrosis (MF) market revealed that web traffic around certain treatment types experienced a fivefold increase compared to competing products. Despite concerns held by some investors that this type of market-dominance would be eroded by rival medications, the data suggests the drug will likely remain a go-to treatment in the near-term.

Research also revealed a correlation between web traffic and sales of the drug Yescarta, used in the treatment of large B-cell lymphoma. Analysis showed a potentially well-correlated relationship between Yescarta sales data and visits to the drug’s REMS website, which physicians access prior to beginning administration of the drug. This data appears to justify industry excitement around the cell therapy sector.


Alternative data supports investment priorities

“Healthcare investors are always looking to get an edge in predicting drug sales. Our clients are very interested in how they can incorporate the predictive potential of our insights into their investment decisions,” concludes Abrahams.

“In a space that's so complex like healthcare, where there are so many different factors which shape company valuations, having alternative datasets and analyses can be incredibly helpful. It can help set one apart when seeking to capture overlooked opportunities in the biopharma market.”

- Brian Abrahams, Head of Biotechnology, RBC Capital Markets

RBC Elements’ analysis of website traffic offers a useful second check on sales estimates, particularly for products that are hard to track using traditional metrics. By helping uncover under-the-radar market trends it serves as a useful additional datapoint for analysts seeking to gain a competitive edge in a complex market.

Brian Abrahams, M.D.

Brian Abrahams, M.D.
Managing Director, Co-Head of Biotechnology Research,

Brian AbrahamsIndustries in MotionRBC Elements

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