The pharmaceutical industry is a highly regulated one, and even today it has become technology-intensive especially in the advanced market economies wherein knowledge is the main source of competitive advantage. In Nigeria the biggest challenge now is for the industry to align with technology, while getting pharma employees to be more innovative and responsive in their thinking to enable optimal use of the new tools to deliver solutions. In this cover, PHARMATIMES explores the new direction of pharma industries worldwide and the need for Nigeria to tap into the big gains of the new revolution.
A faster pace of innovation, and new business models, the pharmaceutical industry globally has not been spared the need to adapt to the technological revolution currently dictating the way businesses are done across the world.
Technological innovation has become increasingly critical for firms including pharmaceutical companies as they struggle to achieve competitive advantage.
Most other industries have already been transformed by using the computers in people’s hands (mobile phones) to make regular activities like shopping, entertainment, and managing finances easier, more accessible and real time. Now healthcare is experiencing its own digital transformation.
Every day, there is a new idea and a new way of helping patients manage and overcome their illnesses. Companies are looking to collect and leverage data that can personalise health treatments and enable patients and healthcare teams to manage health issues with new digital offerings and therapeutic options. Healthcare providers have begun to embrace the power of these powerful products, but the pharmaceutical industry, for the most part, has been missing out.
With healthcare tending towards patient data, personalised therapy, and greater access to care, there is an opportunity to develop effective digital solutions for pharmaceutical products that will revolutionise the industry. Digital medicines fill this void by enabling patients, and with their permission, their healthcare team, to keep track of their ingestions while also capturing their physiologic behaviours.
This groundbreaking technology aligns with current industry trends providing solutions for patient data access, and enhancing the ability for healthcare teams to objectively rotate, titrate, and eliminate medications to reach patient goals. This not only helps establish product value, but also enables broader access to medical care via remote solutions.
If patients have the access and knowledge to keep track of their health from the comfort of their own homes, they are more likely to be engaged with reaching their health goals. Doctors, having the ability to see how their patients are doing with their health, such as their maintenance of blood sugar levels, or taking their medications, can remotely support their patients when it is needed the most, and objectively define a healthcare plan that best enables the patients to reach those goals. The result is more effective treatments, and better outcomes.
Pharmaceutical companies in developed societies where technological tools are commonly deployed in pharmaceutical industry already have a great foundation integrated in the adaptation of products to realise business outputs. Digital medicines leverage this mindset by providing the next wave of technological advancement from which a pharmaceutical drug manufacturer can deploy from early fast-to-fail development programmes, phase III-IV clinical trials, all the way into commercialisation.
During new drug development, digital medicines can help enable pharmaceutical companies to prove out effectiveness, and employ a closed loop feedback system through the design phase cycles. Digital medicines can be used to reduce development costs through the use of wirelessly observed therapy, versus directly observed therapy, and patient feedback.
Adapting by Design
The power of digital medicines is not only in the outcomes it provides but also in the ability of the product to scale within the technology platforms of today’s pharmaceutical products. The ingestible sensor design for example leverages high-volume processes developed in semi-conductor manufacturing to realise digital medicine scale-up from millions into billions.
The sensor is then established into various solid oral form factors utilising existing pharmaceutical technologies integrated with sensor conveyance to realise final digital products. This approach leverages the unique skillsets of technicians, scientists, and engineers in the pharmaceutical industry for drug formulation and product realisation, while adding a revolutionary technological advancement to new and existing medications.
Experts are of the belief that consumers all over the world have come to embrace technology as a means for getting things done faster, easier, and more efficiently. Healthcare is no different. Patients and providers are embracing digital tools to enhance care, expand access to treatment, and improve communication with patients. The pharmaceutical industry now has the opportunity to leverage the data provided by these digital tools to verify the effectiveness of medications in real-world scenarios, all while reducing development cost and expanding product life-cycles.
Stakeholders in health had at various times expressed optimism that many scientific and technological advances, increasing demand for medicines and trade liberalisation, will revive pharmaceutical industry fortunes in the next 10 years.
In March this year, professional services and management consulting company – Accenture announced that by investing in digital technologies, the UK pharmaceutical industry had the potential to unlock £22bn in value over the next decade, accelerating growth by 5% and generating around £12bn in new revenue, passing on cost savings of 10% directly to consumers
In other words, there may be potentially billions of pounds that could be unlocked by pharmaceutical companies through harnessing digital technologies, yet many companies are not taking advantage of new technologies and the potential they hold.
But, there are several ways it noted that pharmaceutical companies could employ digital technologies to transform the sector, according to the analysis from Accenture. Not only could it be used to tackle productivity challenges but it could also support patients in an integrated way through the use of wearable technologies and can back up personalised medicine through additive manufacturing.
In its forecast for the period 2020, Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC), a multinational professional services network headquartered in London, United Kingdom observed that the next few years may look bleak for the pharmaceutical industry, but the next decade will bring a golden era of renewed productivity and prosperity because the pharmaceutical industry’s future has never looked more promising – or more ominous. Major scientific, technological and socioeconomic changes will revive the industry’s fortunes in another decade, but capitalising on these trends will entail making crucial decisions PWC said in a report.
The paramount challenge as PWC sees it is to create more value for patients, providers and payers – and thus for shareholders. Clearly, the route each company takes will depend on its individual aims and circumstances. Nevertheless, there are a number of common imperatives.
Every company PwC further said will have to provide real-world data on the outcomes its medicines deliver, and that will entail setting up a suitable infrastructure to capture such data.
There is also the need for every company to decide how much (if anything) to invest in the growth markets, where to invest and what strategies to pursue in the countries it targets. The biggest markets might not be the most profitable ones, for example, and the costs of setting up a local manufacturing arm might outweigh the additional custom.
Experts are also of the opinion that a substantial and growing number of studies based on data from numerous countries and several methodologies have demonstrated that pharmaceutical innovation is responsible for a large part of long-term improvements in population health.
There is also a consensus that the estimated reduction in hospital expenditure was more than twice as large as the increase in pharmaceutical expenditure attributable to pharmaceutical innovation in countries that have embraced technological innovation in the health sector.
The digital revolution is here, it’s just a matter of adopting, adapting, and advancing.
That path may be hard – strewn with impediments, forking in unforeseen ways, demanding decisions that are very difficult. But those companies that survive the journey will reap significant gains. In another decade, they’ll have the scientific and technological edifice to start developing medicines that render some of the most serious diseases from which we now suffer curable.
The Nigerian pharmaceutical industry currently under threat as a result of hash operating environment would have no choice than to embrace the new culture of innovativeness in other to catch up with the demands of technological revolution in growing businesses.
The saying that “nothing worth having comes easily” could certainly be applied to the technological revolution’s role in driving pharmaceutical industry in the country. Though technology and medicine should theoretically progress together, it takes some time and problem solving to make sure the former does indeed allow the latter to advance.
There will be plenty of challenges and speed bumps along the way, but ultimately new technology will revolutionise every aspect of our pharmaceutical industry – letting us develop more effective medications at a faster rate and for significantly less money.