The pharmaceutical industry has been successful for decades by increasing its market not only in the developed world but also in the increasingly important developing world. Yet many changes are transforming the business, forcing the major companies to rethink their strategies. On the one hand, more individuals in all parts of the world have obtained access to healthcare, while on the other the human population has continued to migrate to the cities and urban centers.
This is causing an increase in prevalence of the major non-communicable diseases like diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. It presents many opportunities for the companies that successfully navigate the growing challenges in the industry today. In this article we look at and consider the top seven common challenges facing the pharmaceutical world in 2020.
Developing new medicines that can cure (or prevent) today’s incurable diseases
The most obvious challenge remains the biggest one. Big pharma has to come up with some new cures for presently incurable diseases. Among the list of those they need to make real progress in continue to be Alzheimer’s Disease and various cancers. This requires continuous massive investment in research and development, but also greater success in discovering new innovative treatments that work (and can get regulatory approval).
Customer Expectations Are Rising Continuously
The commercial atmosphere is only getting harder and more ruthless. Healthcare payers continue to enact more cost restraints on the providers. At the same time, they are relentlessly scrutinizing value for dollars that individual medicines offer their members far more carefully than ever before. They expect better therapies and treatments that offer greater results at more efficient prices than today’s present ones. They also insist on seeing data for real world clinical results to reinforce all claims made about the superiority of one medicine versus competitors in the field.
Scientific Productivity Is Lackluster and Stagnant
Unfortunately for big pharma, their new drug output has held at a consistent level for the last 10 years. Assuming that the discovery and development processes remain identical to what they have used in the past, no reason magically appears for productivity suddenly taking off in 2020. Without significant gains in new drug release productivity, the industry will continue to be challenged more seriously by all of the other top seven challenges facing it this coming year.
The problem is that it is not easy to simply wave a magic wand and improve drug discovery and release productivity. To borrow the expression, the discovery of new drugs is as much an art as it it a science. It is also made more complicated by the fact that bacteria are becoming more and more resistant to antibiotics as people have taken them too casually over the last decade and more. Just call it another challenge for the pharmaceutical industry.
Management Culture Issues Are Slowing Much Needed Changes
Management culture is another entrenched factor that is difficult to change in a hurry. Prevailing culture of management, industry wide strategies, and mental models upon which the industry has become dependent are more or less identical to what it has always depended on. This is despite the fact that they have been disrupted by newer ways of conducting business today and for tomorrow.
Pharmo-economic Performances of Drugs Is Increasingly Being Scrutinized by Healthcare Payers
In the past, it was difficult for the healthcare payers to effectively measure and compare statistics on the performance and economic returns on different medications. Thanks to the increased and now commonplace utilization of electronic medical records in the U.S., this is giving the healthcare payers the ability and the data they lacked previously to demand pricing based on results and patient outcomes.
Couple this with a rising focus on containing health care costs and you have a serious challenge for the pharmaceutical industry. Payers in developed countries are constantly trying to squeeze the drug makers on how much they will pay for these super drugs. Meanwhile in the growing markets of the developed world, cost containment focus can mean the difference between gaining access for a drug in the market or being shut out completely.
To make matters worse in developing countries, intellectual property rights and protection laws typically favor the generic drug makers (again in an effort to reduce costs of drugs). These countries also aggressively pursue drug pricing and access policies that will favor their local domestic producers over the major British, American, French, and Swiss pharma giants like Glaxo Smith Kline, Astra Zeneca, Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer, Sanofi, Roche, and Novartis. It is now necessary for executives at the big pharma companies to spend considerable time and energy on acquiring access to these markets as a means for assuring future growth in 2020 and beyond.
The Self Medication Sector Is Expanding Rapidly
In the last few years, there has been a blurring of the lines between the boundaries of varying types of healthcare and medical remedies and treatments. Thanks to clinical advances over the last several years, diseases that were once fatal are now merely chronic. They require only a continuous regimen of self-medicating over the counter sector remedies in many cases. This is a challenge to the old model of pharmaceuticals spending enormous amounts of money to develop super drugs and then charging astronomical prices for seven years of their patent protection to recoup their investment and make outsized returns.
Governments Have Started Turning Their Focus to Prevention Instead of Treatment of Diseases
This is a startling development for the future course of the big pharmaceutical companies. Governments who long expected to pay for diseases being treated have experienced the epiphany that they can save massively on costs by helping to get their citizens to work towards disease prevention instead of treating diseases after the patients have contract them. Though governments have not yet invested a large sum in preemptive disease prevention measures, this is definitely going to be an increasingly growing concern for pharmaceutical companies in 2020 and beyond as governments follow through.
Add to all of these headaches for pharmaceuticals that the drug regulators in many countries are now becoming increasingly more careful about the more innovative treatments they will approve, and you can understand why 2020 and beyond looks incredibly challenging. The biggest challenge today for the companies is to reach tomorrow of course. That by itself is a tall order.