Digital Business Transformation is disrupting businesses in every industry by breaking down barriers between people, businesses, and practices. By breaking these barriers, they can create new products, services and find more efficient ways of doing business. These innovations are happening across organizations of all types, in every industry. But they share a common theme: The ability to transform processes & business models, empower workforce efficiency and innovation, and personalize customer/ citizen experiences. To do this, companies need a Digital Business Platform that is outcome driven and enabled by technology. Digital transformation is disrupting all industries around the globe and pharma industry is no exception.
In an ideal world, you’ll have clarity around a playbook of processes. One that is clear enough for all to follow the same rules is not so complex or convoluted that it unnecessarily slows you down. Digitalization is doing more than just preparing for the future workforce for enhanced remote work productivity. It’s simply a process of upgrading or establishing a new way of carrying out business activities, as well as adapting current business trends, culture, and customer experiences, using digital technology to meet all business requirements.
In pharmaceutical industry, it’s another level of innovation that is constantly undergoing socio-economic evolution and a cultural paradigm shift.
Size of Pakistan Pharma Industry
The size of the pharmaceutical industry in Pakistan has increased gradually since 2013 from PKR 221 Billion to PKR 615 Billion in 2021. In 2021, the Industry size has grown by 22.5% from Rs. 502 billion in 2020 to Rs. 615 billion in 2021. This rapid progress and growth in the pharma industry clearly shows the potential of the pharma industry and its impact on our economy. Leveraging digital technology however can set new trends from drug outreach to improving patients well being.
There are four key areas of digital transformation in the Pharma industry.
The ability to personalize interactions with stakeholders is a key value driver of digital technology in any industry. Within five to seven years, a significant proportion of the pharmaceutical portfolio will create value through more than just drugs. There is already a plethora of wireless sensors in the market to measure patient’s biophysical signals. Advanced data analytics that mines electronic medical records, including diagnostic results, medication history, genomic, and gene-expression data will help identify optimal therapies and predict how individual patients will respond to treatment.
Digital engagement technologies open a whole new world for marketing, the exchange of information, and recruitment for clinical trials. Anytime-anywhere virtual care will become increasingly mainstream. Specialist virtual-care apps already exist.
A huge opportunity to create further value from data and analytics using internal and external data sources to drive superior results. In R&D, digital discovery, and the testing of molecules with advanced modeling and simulation techniques will be a commonplace. A “patient finder” technology that mines electronic medical records to identify sufferers from specific rare diseases will enable sales forces and medical science liaisons to focus on providers caring for patients likely to have those diseases.
Cloud and mobile technology, sensors, and next-generation business intelligence will bring about a new wave of automation in business processes. Increased connectivity and automation in trial-management processes will also enable advanced trial design and monitoring approaches.
The process of digitalization includes both increased use of robotics, automatization of solutions and computerization, thereby allowing for reduction of costs, improving efficiency and productivity, and being flexible to changes. However, In the pharmaceutical industry, digital transformation is critical for improved patient care, cost-effectiveness, greater transparency, improved production, and drug development. The digital transformation in the pharma industry will enable pharmaceutical businesses to manufacture counterfeit-proof medications, which will guarantee the medicine’s authenticity.
Many industries have got most of their operations computerized. Not just the big pharma companies, but even about 70% of the small and medium enterprises utilize automation in one form or the other. Digital technologies are being increasingly accepted as an essential part of modern and progressive pharma industry. Given the rapid pace of change in technology, pharma companies need to make digitization of their operations and supply chain a priority, starting today.
Capturing this opportunity requires building a digital supply chain ecosystem, including virtual supply chain control tools, cloud-based information architecture, and a digitally enabled physical supply chain. When these elements come together synchronously, humans, machines, and resources communicate as a cyber-physical system, leading to improvements in all stages of the operations value chain: plan, source, make and deliver. Moreover, companies need a structured road map for implementation that addresses risk factors such as cybersecurity. The advantages of digitized workplace operations must however be taken in stride with traditional practices as well.
Digitization holds tremendous potential to help pharma companies address these challenges. In all industries, companies are improving operations through a set of emerging technologies collectively known as Industry 4.0. Specifically, that term refers to new tools and processes that are enabling smart, decentralized production via intelligent factories, integrated IT systems, the internet of things and highly flexible, integrated manufacturing systems. For the pharma industry digitization and industry 4.0 have the potential to significantly transform supply chain operations, fundamentally improving processes and boosting productivity. The industry 4.0 of the Pharmaceutical Industry will in the future contribute towards an intelligent automation technology and may support augmented manufacturing, such as personalized medicine, additive manufacturing, localized 3D printing of treatments etc.
Pharmaceutical businesses can comply with regulations and interact with suppliers and wholesalers via cloud-based information exchange and can also potentially use digitization to satisfy an increase in market demand. To sustain real-time production, pharmaceutical businesses can use automation and smart sensors to analyze drug compliance and estimate demand across regions.
Pharmaceutical firms are subject to rigorous rules and standards and must also carefully secure the integrity of their data. Finding an effective and reliable means to do so will help these organizations to enhance their production and product quality. The use of a digitization strategy can help to monitor, regulate, and optimize production processes, increasing efficiency and productivity
How digital transformation is shaping pharma industry globally:
Digitalization of the industry that began not long before the COVID-19 crisis is still among pharma trends in 2021/22. Below are some of the technologies that contribute to higher production output, better quality of drugs and in this way increase pharmaceutical companies’ competitiveness.
Artificial Intelligence (AI): Revolution in Drug Discovery
As for Artificial Intelligence, the COVID-19 pandemic has become to some extent the necessary evil that has accelerated the speed of technology adoption in the pharmaceutical industry: according to a Global Data report, AI will transform the pharmaceutical industry in the coming years. The urgent need for COVID-19 vaccine and medications have probably facilitated the implementation of AI in drug discovery, and has become a tipping point for the adoption of this technology across the industry.
Artificial intelligence will transform the pharmaceutical industry in the coming years by delivering productivity improvements and efficiencies across the entire pharma value chain, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.
GlobalData’s latest report, reveals that AI is expected to be the emerging technology that will have the greatest impact on the pharmaceutical industry in 2021, as indicated by 36% of 198 surveyed pharmaceutical industry professionals.
Pharmaceutical companies used to be criticized for the slow adoption of technological advances. Without applying AI technology drug discovery is a slow, costly and not very successful process: the research and development together with regulatory approval of a new medicine takes about a decade and costs more than $2bn. At the same time, AI reduces the time required to analyze the vast amounts of scientific data to get a better understanding of disease mechanisms and find potential drug candidates, as long as it makes it possible to cross-reference piles of published data within seconds. The rapid progress with COVID-19 vaccine development is also associated with the use of AI. Also, AI is currently being used to find treatment for infectious diseases as well as for cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmune disorders. The technology is expected to at least double the success rate of drug discovery and save billions of dollars. The world’s top drugmakers, including US companies Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, France’s Sanofi, and the UK’s AstraZeneca are now investing in AI.
The pharmaceutical industry is under increasing pressure, with rising costs of drug development, manufacturing, and marketing eroding profit margins. AI can be applied across a wide range of other functions, allowing for improved clinical trial design and recruitment, smarter and more efficient supply chains, and targeted sales and marketing.
Robots in Drug Manufacturing
There has been a growing need for automation in pharmaceutical manufacturing units as well as for reducing costs for drug discovery. The introduction of robotics into pharmaceutical production has become the solution to the problem. This process has also been accelerated by the pandemic, as pharmaceutical companies had to overcome labor shortages and increase in-house manufacturing through automation rather than outsourcing.
The use of robotics demonstrates numerous benefits in product manufacturing: improved production output and product quality, occupying less space, absence of labor turnover, enhanced safety, reduced production downtime, and better waste management.
As for the manufacturing process itself, robots reduce error rates and relieve people from monotonous and time-consuming work, which taken together can improve a plant’s productivity. For example, in the US, a syringe-filling robot has been developed with the aim of tackling drug shortages. As usual, syringe-filling is done by technicians and requires up to five employees per day. The developed robot can fill, cap, and seal syringes without human participation.
As the practice of robotics utilization has proven to be efficient, this trend is likely to continue after the COVID-19 crisis: the long-term benefits of robots make them a cost-effective instrument in manufacturing processes.
Decentralized Clinical Trials
Clinical trials have made way from site-based traditional trials to recent site-less decentralized trials (DCTs). The latter require minimum or even no in-person interactions between the patient and the investigator, including site personnel. As they are completely site-less and visit-less, the data is collected remotely by means of connected devices, telemedicine, or mobile healthcare providers. All the activities from A to Z are done remotely, at patients’ homes. Among other benefits, DCTs provide patients with a more streamlined experience, relieve them from time-consuming in-person visits and provide opportunities for wider patient access, e.g. rural areas or distant communities. Still, it has certain risks, for example, undetected adverse effects or mishandling the data collected.
It’s easy to guess that COVID-19 pandemic has become a catalyst for wider adoption of decentralized clinical trials and immediately they’ve become a strategic priority for many pharmaceutical organizations. This trend is expected to last long after the COVID-19 crisis ends: DCTs offer an opportunity to fundamentally change the procedure of clinical research.
The pharmaceutical industry is one of the most affected by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. It has multiple challenges to address this year and even years ahead: enhance cybersecurity across the industry, find solutions for overcoming antimicrobial resistance, cope with raw materials shortage and avoid the shortage of essential drugs, and others. At the same time, the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of numerous positive trends that are here to stay on a sustained basis, e.g. implementation of artificial intelligence, utilizing robots for pharmaceutical manufacturing, and carrying out decentralized clinical trials.
Digitization is a complex task and risk factor like cybersecurity breach is a major concern, Pharmaceuticals maintain critical records of their medicines including its formula, Research & development which requires physical & logical security. By examining the last few years’ cases, many of the Pharmaceuticals got data breached due to absence of relevant security controls in place. The need for Cyber Security has become essential.
According to many studies and surveys conducted recently pharmaceutical was the number one industry targeted in email fraud attacks.
To sum up, pharmaceutical companies must change the way they look at Digital Health today. Shorter product lifecycles and the increasing role of technology will require different sets of competencies. Research and development will have to consider Digital Health components that future health technology assessments will require. In the future, pharmaceutical companies will have to be more dynamic and able to bring in new aspects of how to innovate, learn and share with the environment to cope with the accelerated speed that comes alongside digital health solutions.