Trends in digitalization in the pharmaceutical industry
For the world’s pharmaceutical companies, digitalization brings numerous opportunities – but also increased competition and risk.
According to a recent study by consulting firm McKinsey, there are four key areas where digital developments will drive value for pharmaceutical companies.
Technologies for Monitoring and Intervention
The first major growth area is sensors, smartwatches, and chip-on-a-pill technologies used to monitor patients’ biophysical responses to medications and compliance with their treatment regimes. With the help of such technologies, drugs will increasingly be administered within a broad digital ecosystem for monitoring a patient’s ongoing condition, including real-time alerts when intervention by a physician is needed. For example, Japanese pharmaceutical company Otsuka and California-based Proteus Digital Health recently won FDA approval for a tiny ingestible sensor inside tablets of Abilify MyCite®, a schizophrenia drug. The sensor communicates with a wearable patch which transmits information to a mobile device, allowing psychiatrists and caregivers to monitor patient compliance more easily.
Pierre-Henri Bruchon, Head of Pharma Division at Constantia Flexibles, comments: “Constantia Flexibles already has packaging solutions that can support such technologies, by providing suitable visual features on the packaging, or with RFID/NFC or other conductive components inside the packaging.”
New Channels of Marketing Communication
Digital-engagement technologies will create new ways for pharmaceutical companies to communicate with patients directly. The Internet, smartphone apps, and social media are the “traditional” digital methods already used by pharmaceutical sales representatives and patient service teams to inform and influence patients, physicians, and caregivers. In future, dramatic growth is expected in patient portals, prescription filling apps, and online forums for patients – powerful channels through which pharmaceutical companies can reach out to patients.
Pharmaceutical companies are making increasing use of data analytics in several areas. In their product development pipelines, they draw on big data to assess issues such as toxicity and real-world effectiveness. In market analysis, advanced analytics are used to gain insight into prescribing behavior and potential patient profiles. And in the field of therapy, data from sources such as insurers, clinics, labs, and social media are employed to create algorithms to help physicians in their clinical decision-making. Pharmaceutical companies will increasingly seek to influence those algorithms.
Remote-Monitoring Technology for Clinical Trials
Sensors, connected devices, and apps can also be used as part of clinical trials which are performed in real-world settings in order to allow patients to go about their normal lives. This trend will reduce the need for interventions at clinics and trial sites, and alleviate the burden on the patients involved.
Digitalization Downsides: Competition from Tech Giants
Unsurprisingly, big pharma is not alone in exploiting these digital trends: Tech giants such as Apple and IBM are moving into healthcare, offering advanced technological know-how and the ability to collect petabytes of data for advanced analytics and clinical decision support. Pharmaceutical companies will have to decide whether to compete with these tech giants or set up strategic alliances with them.
With increased digitalization comes increased vulnerability – to hackers. Patient treatment data is perhaps the most sensitive type of data of all, and with more and more points of digital exposure comes a growing likelihood of cyberattacks on pharmaceutical companies and on individual patients. Pharmaceutical companies will therefore be increasingly reliant on the industry associations who establish secure industrial standards, and the policymakers who draft data protection legislation.
“Constantia Flexibles has a long history of responding adaptively to market needs,” points out Nicole Mayr, Product Manager at Constantia Flexibles’ Pharma Division. “We are currently working on a range of solutions for the digitalization era, in many cases developed individually in collaboration with customers.”