Editor’s note: Alex Bonello is a research director, life sciences division, at Livonia, Mich.-based market research firm Market Strategies. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared under the title, “The hope that fuels pharma.” 

Like the old TV commercial, I sometimes joke, “I’m not a doctor but I play one on TV.” What I really do is health care market research for the pharmaceutical industry, which requires a deep understanding of many diseases, diagnostics and treatments. I help pharmaceutical clients understand what patients need and how health care providers make decisions.

Sometimes people are judgmental about the pharmaceutical industry. But they may feel differently if they saw the passion that I see daily.

I know that health care is a hot-button issue. I understand – the high cost of drugs for patients and families is something we hear echoed by both patients and physicians in research all the time. Physicians often provide the caveat “assuming insurance will cover this …” before explaining how they would approach prescribing a drug or when describing product preferences. There’s no doubt that this is an important issue but in my experience the motivation to market drugs is not all about money.

Launching a new product often involves a hefty emotional investment by many in the organization and beyond:

Interacting with those involved can be a roller coaster of emotions. I get to listen to patients describe their emotional journey, experiences and yearning for a treatment that can help. I watch physicians light up when they see a hypothetical product profile that may someday come to life to help them treat their patients more effectively, safely or conveniently. And I remember those people and their stories when a new treatment succeeds or fails.

I’ve had the pleasure of working on multiple studies for the sole purpose of building empathy among a pro...