Primary vs Secondary Data

A thorough and agile tracking study can aid marketers to envision emerging trends, consumer behavior, brand positioning and product usage, among other indications. The decision of whether to invest in syndicated or ad hoc data depends on multiple factors including the types of data needed, the budget for the market research project, and the end-usage of the data. 


Primary vs Secondary Data: Secondary Data

Secondary data is readily available research that was not developed at the request of or for one specific client.    

Pharmaceutical companies often purchase data from databases, or sectoral analyses, which can be rich sources of information and meet the specific research needs of a project. Data collected by sales teams and projects conducted by medical teams can also be useful and meet some needs. These data are often underexploited as they require appropriate indexing and archiving as well as easy access to be utilized.    

There are also the websites of health ministries, such as the WHO, professional organizations, patient associations, and even publications or doctoral theses to be considered as sources of information.  

Secondary data can also be accessed in the form of “syndicated” or “multi-client” research, often focusing on a specific therapeutic area. 

Syndicated or multi-client research is designed and developed by a market research company who retains ownership of the data. Multiple stakeholders purchase access to the data from relevant markets. Depending on the design of the study, the syndicated research may suffice to inform the sales strategy or constitute the first level of analysis, thus allowing further research to focus on a more specific problem or area.   

Although syndicated research often has the advantage of being immediately available at a generally lower cost, it is important to ask the following questions:   

  • How old is the data? Is it still relevant?   

  • If necessary, are subsequent waves planned? How frequently (from a monitoring perspective)?   

  • Is the data reliable? What collection biases could affect its quality?   

  • Is the data sufficiently accurate and relevant to my product?   

  • Do the data collected completely or partially answer the question asked?   

Syndicated studies can fulfill the needs of all, or part of, a research project. They can also help to consolidate more specific primary data.   


Primary vs Secondary Data: Primary Data 

Primary or ad hoc research is customized to meet the needs of a specific client. The pharmaceutical or med-tech company is the sole owner of the collected data and resulting analyses.  

Unlike syndicated research, ad hoc offers healthcare companies a tailored approach and the possibility to conduct studies on niche areas. With bespoke research, a business can look at information such as possible product compositions and improvements to find out if it is possible to increase the sales for said brand. This level of detail can usually only be acquired through ad hoc research.  

Within tailored research services, it is possible to regulate the specifications for a project and make sure that all analyses and information fit the specific requirements of the company. This type of research can help reveal more information about the key players in your industry amongst other insights.

Some additional ad hoc study projects can include market analysis, segmentation analysis, competitive analysis, economic impact analysis, industry benchmarking and partner exploration to name a few. The possibilities for primary data are unlimited and can collect quantitative and qualitative data for diverse topics. Unlike syndicated research, ad hoc research will be uniquely designed for each client. 

Read more about the benefits of syndicated research in hemato-oncology.

Pros and cons of syndicated research 


  • Usually provides a good overview of the market studied 
  • Cost-benefit ratio allows the client to benefit from large sample size for lower budget 
  • Regulatory constraints (pharmacovigilance, etc.) are borne by the market research agency 
  • Avoids over-soliciting potential respondents by sharing data collected once for several clients 


  • Cannot necessarily resolve all the company’s research issues 
  • Agenda is defined by the market research agency 
  • All specifications are defined by the market research agency 
  • Framework and content are guided by the subscribers’ common interest 


Pros and cons of ad hoc research 


  • Completely adapted to the requirements and market of a specific company 
  • Complete control over the schedule 
  • Data collected and analyses conducted are confidential and the exclusive property of the commissioning company 
  • Supports the option to test client-confidential material 


  • All regulatory constraints apply to the commissioning client, which owns the project and data 
  • Higher cost 

For more information on preparing market research briefs that result in the best research outcomes for your team, you can download our Performance Tracker eBook here:


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For a full overview of AplusA’s range of syndicated studies, click here.