Did you know generic drugs are most likely going to cost more from this year onwards? Were you aware that patients have much more options when it comes to treatment than they did 20-30 years ago? These matters affect and impact your everyday lives as consumers of medicine in some form or another. From pharma marketers to consumers, it’s important to stay in-the-know of the current trends in the industry. Keep an eye out for the pharma trends below that will set the direction for the pharmaceutical industry in 2016. This is what’s happening in the pharmaceutical world this year.
1. Pricing Pressure for the Industry
The industry is facing pressure to keep lower drug costs from multiple sources. The three P’s — patients, politicians, and physicians are demanding for pharmaceutical companies to keep the costs low. Biopharma companies are an easy target for price constraints and scrutiny because it’s such a huge money-making industry! Generating on average about 44.5% of its annual revenue in North America, this industry is highly profitable. This fact outrages people because it doesn’t align with the reality of skyrocketing drug prices for existing medications.
2. Empowered Patients
Patients are empowered now when it comes to their health and medical care in ways like never before. It used to be that whenever patients got sick, they would go to their doctors for a diagnosis, followed by a prescription for medication. In our time and age, the power has shifted from doctors towards the patients. The shift from the industrial age to the information age has made it easily accessible for patients to learn more about their health conditions. With a click of a mouse or a push of the enter key, patients are led to highly- informational explanations–often more detailed than a trip to the doctor’s could provide. As a result, people are more knowledgeable about their diseases and are aware of the different treatment alternatives that exist. They are granted with a freedom of choice. Freedom to choose the medication, treatment, and process on their own terms.
This has many implications. Patients are able to self-medicate themselves with natural at-home remedies or choose over-the-counter drugs over prescribed ones. Doctors no longer have the authority and power they used to. Partnering with doctors for their company brands to be pushed out there won’t suffice anymore. With rising consumer buyer power, pharmaceutical companies have to work harder to ensure reasons for why their medications are being chosen over others.
3. Personalized Medicine
In 2015 and predicted to continue in 2016, biotech and pharmaceutical companies are pursued more targeted and specialized therapies. These are known as personalized medications that rely on advances in genomics and data to target specific types of diseases (for example, cancer) affecting a specific group of patients. Statistics indicated that about 94% of pharmaceutical firms were actively researching specialized therapies. There are 7,000 different rare diseases in the world tonight, and one out of every tenth North American suffers from one of these conditions.
There are reasons for this: competition in the market is getting tough due to harsh price controls, tight regulation, and strict government expectations. It is clear for pharmaceutical companies, the need to concentrate on targeted and specialized therapies. Patients are overwhelmingly positive in response to this trend. It gives them hope that the cure for their suffering is in the near future. Curing chronic pains and illnesses are one of the industry’s lifelong goal in providing the patient with the right drug and the right dosage at the right time.
4. Tech Giants are Getting Involved
The technology industry has had an increasing interest in the biomedical field in the last few years. The pharmaceutical industry is the next big step in the future of the technology as these two industries find a way to collaborate together. Big name Corporate tech companies such as Apple, Google, and IBM have already entered the industry by forging relationships with biotech and pharmaceutical companies.
For example, Google has developed “smart” lens for diabetes that monitors the glucose levels in the patient’s tears and sends the information directly to a mobile phone or a computer. Patients suffering from diabetes must keep a close eye on their glucose levels in case of emergencies when sudden spikes or drops in sugar levels become dangerous. Usually, patients do this by testing their drops of blood. Now, this innovative technology presents diabetic patients with a new and more convenient way to monitor their health. Still in the testing and development stage, it will be at least 5 years before this technology is released into the market.
This is just the beginning of the endless possibilities inspired and created through the collaboration and team-work of technology and life sciences.
5. The Digital Movement
There’s a need to catch up with the rest of the world when it comes to digital connectivity with our patients. Consumers are connected to the products they use, the food they eat, and the brands they consume. Why can’t they assume the same with medicine? There’s a disconnect when it comes to patient interaction with the people behind the drugs they take. The industry is not quite there yet but are currently making changes where they can.
The industry is not quite there yet but are making changes where they can to interact with patients so they’re not just the ends to the medicine. By linking feedback from patients directly to the development and manufacturing, consumers can actually contribute to the research and development process.
In the last few years, we have seen apps and wearables that allow patients to monitor their health outside of the hospitals. This technology allows drug manufacturers to monitor patient behaviour– from the times they take the medicine, to the effectiveness of the drug, and any other side-effects or reaction to the drug. These results can be used to further develop a drug or simply alter it to make it better suit patient needs. It will be interesting to see where these new innovations will lead the pharmaceutical industry.
It takes medicine a long time to be researched, developed, and then launched to market. A significant portion of that time has to do with the knowledge transfer of the patient’s needs to the hands of the scientist behind the drug development. After all, no one knows more about the illness or disease than the patient himself. The connectivity from technology will save developers and manufacturers unnecessary cost and time. It will be interesting to see where these new innovations will lead the industry.