The drug giants were the three most searched for companies on pharmaceutical business intelligence website Piribo.com between January and May. US-based Pfizer was the most popular company looked for on the site, accounting for over 7 per cent of the company-related searches. Just behind it was Swiss firm Novartis with almost 6 per cent of the searches while France's largest drug maker Sanofi-Aventis got the third spot with more than 4 per cent of the searches. The top ten list of companies also included Wyeth, Merck KGaA, Abbott, Takeda Pharmaceutical, Eisai and Schering Ag. According to Piribo.com, a number of pharma and biotech giants, including Amgen, Roche and Schering-Plough, were conspicuous by their absence from the statistics, despite being some of the biggest firms in terms of sales. "As Piribo is a leading online provider of business information products for the pharmaceutical industry, activity on the website provides a unique insight into which subjects and companies are occupying the minds of those working in and with the pharmaceutical industry," said Edwin Bailey, managing director of Piribo. Piribo compiled and analysed the search terms used more than 20 times by visitors on the website between 1 January and 31 May this year. The firm also found 'mergers' as the single most popular topic on the website, accounting for more than 4 per cent of the top 100 searches. "It is interesting that [mergers and acquisitions] M&As still fixates the biotech and pharma sector," said Bailey. "Perhaps the large-scale mergers of the last 18 months are an indication of things to come?" he added. Indeed, according to a biotech report released by Ernst & Young recently, the proportion of M&As compared to alliances in Europe has almost doubled in the past six years. In 2000, M&A deals represented 10 per cent of the total amount of deals while this figure climbed to almost 20 per cent last year. But M&A was not the only subject that captivated the pharmaceutical industry's attention, according to Piribo. The terms 'influenza' and 'women's health' were ranked second and third respectively, while 'packaging labelling' was the fourth most searched subject. The top ten most searched topics also included 'biotech sector information', 'OTC women's health', 'biotech report', 'metabolomics' and 'health and economics', the Piribo study found. Furthermore, people searching for data on a particular country were most interested in France, which generated almost 20 per cent of searches during the period, while India and Germany followed closely with almost 15 per cent and 13 per cent of internet searches respectively. "Unexpectedly, the US is just tenth on the list; this maybe partly explained by the number of US site visitors looking for information outside of their domestic market," said Piribo. The most popular countries also included Japan in number four, followed by China, UK, Italy, Australia and Canada. The website had an average of 80,000 unique visitors every month from over 50 countries, but mainly from the USA followed by India, Great Britain and Germany.