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Filings buzz: tracking big data mentions in pharmaceuticals

Mentions of big data within the filings of companies in the pharmaceutical industry were 60% higher between October 2020 and September 2021 than in 2016, according to the latest analysis of data from GlobalData.

When pharmaceutical companies publish annual and quarterly reports, ESG reports and other filings, GlobalData analyses the text and identifies individual sentences that relate to disruptive forces facing companies in the coming years. Big data is one of these topics – companies that excel and invest in these areas are thought to be better prepared for the future business landscape and better equipped to survive unforeseen challenges.

To assess whether big data is featuring more in the summaries and strategies of pharmaceutical companies, two measures were calculated. Firstly, we looked at the percentage of companies which have mentioned big data at least once in filings during the past twelve months – this was 66% compared to 48% in 2016. Secondly, we calculated the percentage of total analysed sentences that referred to big data.

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Of the 50 biggest employers in the pharmaceutical industry, IQVIA Holdings Inc was the company which referred to big data the most between October 2020 and September 2021. GlobalData identified 27 big data-related sentences in the United States-based company’s filings – 0.5% of all sentences. PRA Health Sciences Inc mentioned big data the second most – the issue was referred to in 0.4% of sentences in the company’s filings. Other top employers with high big data mentions included Novartis AG, Johnson & Johnson and Merck & Co Inc.

This analysis provides an approximate indication of which companies are focusing on big data and how important the issue is considered within the pharmaceutical industry, but it also has limitations and should be interpreted carefully. For example, a company mentioning big data more regularly is not necessarily proof that they are utilising new techniques or prioritising the issue, nor does it indicate whether the company’s ventures into big data have been successes or failures.

GlobalData also categorises big data mentions by a series of subthemes. Of these subthemes, the most commonly referred to topic in the third quarter of 2021 was ‘data analytics’, which made up 87% of all big data subtheme mentions by pharmaceutical companies.

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