8 things pharmaceutical companies can do to ensure their survival

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In order to continue to be viable in the next decade, the pharmaceutical industry is adapting in ways that might seem surprising just a few years ago.  The pressure to reduce costs coupled with the need to be more innovative and still comply with U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations has led to a number of new developments.

Disruptive technology, big data, demographic trends and healthcare reform are impacting the kind of decisions pharmaceutical companies make about drug development. A PriceWaterhouseCoopers report Pharma 2020: from vision to decision outlines the trends and opportunities that will help define the pharmaceutical industry and the challenges it will face implementing them.

Strengthen portfolios with more diversification As a way of addressing the significant increase in drug failures in the past 20 years, pharma companies should develop better risk evaluation and management measures. All pharma companies should weed out their weakest compounds, with disciplined and continuous portfolio management, according to the report. They should focus on the frontrunners with a few long shots that might generate higher returns.

Develop better reward system It would be better for drug companies to use a measurement system that combines financial and non-financial metrics (like motivation and commitment), the report notes. That system should also be flexible enough to measure different kinds of innovation and easy to understand. “Similarly, it’s better to reward scientists only when a molecule reaches proof of concept or when they solve serious problems. This encourages them to focus on creating compounds with a real chance of success in the clinic. It also strengthens the links between R & D.”

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More industry collaboration There has been a growing drumbeat of pharmaceutical collaborations that go beyond the typical two to three company strategies to reduce costs. Transcelerate, a collaboration between 10 pharmaceutical companies set out five projects they want to achieve to make clinical trials more efficient. A project that fits in with Transcelerate’s objectives, but launched before that collaboration, is a database of clinical trial sites. That initiative will reduce the time pharmaceutical companies take to choose the right sites for the right trials in an initiative that includes Johnson & Johnson, Merck and Eli Lilly.

More non industry collaboration J&J’s push to open innovation centers in three continents underscores the need to hunt far and wide to identify and foster exciting projects that fit in with the drugmaker’s strategy. Merck opened a translational research center in San Diego earlier this year — the California Institute for Biomedical Research to bring together venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and drug discovery scientists. The report notes that every company will have to collaborate with academia, governmental and non-governmental organizations, regulators and patient groups, to get access to the best science and eliminate waste.

Make the most of big data Gene sequencing plus health IT advancements mean the industry will have the ability to develop more personalized medicine treatments. There are also diagnostics being developed to identify conditions like coronary artery disease in earlier stagesMedivo’s technology is helping physicians see patterns in a patient’s disease by mining lab records. Context Matters’ platform collates disparate pieces of information about global drug reimbursement rates that could be especially helpful for pharma companies that lack the resources to get this information themselves.

Maximize what’s already available Transparency Life Sciences is using the NIH’s program to develop new ways to repurpose compounds as part of its crowdsourcing initiative. NPharmakon has developed a technology platform that analyzes drugs to identify previously unrecognized targets and assess the best new use for them.

Measure the patient experience Although a relatively small number of pharmaceutical companies measure the patient experience, it can have surprising benefits. The report notes that the FDA said Incyte’s move to include patient-reported outcomes with its  myelofibrosis drug Jakafi was a vital element in the decision to approve its drug, Jakafi.  Pharmaceutical companies could also make better use of data derived from patient communities on the Internet.

Improve payers’ trust A Quintiles study indicated that payers are likely to have a greater drug development role, that could include influencing what drugs get developed and financing clinical trials. And yet, the study cites data from a recent survey PWC conducted that only 5 percent of US health insurers participating in its survey “are very confident of the quality of the economic data pharma companies provide…Only 7 percent are very confident of the quality of the information they receive on a drug’s comparative effectiveness.” It recommends that pharma companies get independent verification of their data or sponsor independent research on the cost-effectiveness of its products.

 

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Stephanie Baum

By Stephanie Baum

Stephanie Baum is the East Coast Innovation Reporter for MedCityNews.com. She enjoys covering healthcare startups across health IT, drug development and medical devices and innovations deployed to improve medical care. She graduated from Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania and has worked across radio, print and video. She's written for The Christian Science Monitor, Dow Jones & Co. and United Business Media.
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