Top 11 trends in pharma for 2021
If you’ve been following the pharmaceutical industry trends, there’s probably one thing on your mind: how drastically has COVID impacted the pharma market? Read on to find out the top challenges and trends in the pharma industry this year.
Top challenges in pharma
Not all the challenges the industry faced in 2020 had to do with COVID. Some were symptoms of much longer-standing issues.
New medicines are getting harder to produce, and therefore more expensive. On average, it costs almost a billion dollars to bring a new prescription drug to market – 2.7 billion for more specialised drugs like immunomodulating agents. These costs are rising by 10% a year, forcing pharma companies to increase prices.
The rising prices are having a predictable effect: demand for prescription drugs is falling. Pharma companies need to focus on managing costs and bringing prices down to increase demand.
Loss of exclusivity
Applications for biosimilar drugs – cheaper copies of biomedicines that have already been approved – are on the rise. Statista predicts that this will cost the worldwide pharma industry $30 billion by the end of 2021. Within a few years, the vast majority of the top 20 drugs will have a cheaper alternative.
Another threat on the rise is cybercrime, which skyrocketed during COVID – yet pharma companies’ data remains poorly protected. Most don’t have the resources to focus on cybersecurity right now. One study found that 89% of healthcare organisations suffered data breaches, and nearly half experienced multiple attacks in a year.
Top trends in pharma
1. Rising medicine spending
Despite the disruption, global medicine spending continues to increase steadily and looks set to exceed $1.4 trillion by the end of the year, according to IQVIA. Most of this growth comes from innovation in leading pharma markets like China and the US.
2. Beyond-the-pill services
Digital, or beyond-the-pill, medical solutions, are growing in popularity. These include digital pills, sensors, wearable trackers, and apps that deliver real-time information and gamified treatment.
3. Patient engagement
Patients, not doctors, are the consumers for beyond-the-pill solutions, so understanding patients’ needs and maximising patient engagement is vital. That means involving patients in the whole process of drug development and having specialists in patient advocacy in the C-suite. Many companies have created roles like Chief Patient Officer.
4. Real-world evidence (RWE)
Gathering real-world evidence is now a respected form of medicine testing; the FDA has approved it for several medications and developed a strategic framework for its use in small-molecule drugs and biologics. Over 70% of pharma professionals polled by Deloitte expect RWE to be part of their C-suite by 2022.
5. Digital marketing
With IRL events cancelled by COVID, streaming marketing events are a growing trend. As business moves increasingly online, healthcare businesses can no longer afford not to have a strong online presence.
6. Natural language processing for patient enrolment
Natural language processing (NLP) has developed more than any other field of AI in the last three years, and pharma companies worldwide are using it to gather insights from unstructured data and identify potential participants for clinical trials.
Telehealth, or remote doctor services, gained tremendous traction thanks to the pandemic. And it’s not just patient visits that are happening remotely. Over 70% of prescribers are now willing to engage with healthcare businesses exclusively online.
8. Fewer opioid prescriptions
Concerns over drug abuse have driven opioid prescriptions down. Despite new risk management legislation introduced by the FDA in 2018, clinical practice guidelines and prescription practices remain inconsistent across the industry, and the decline looks set to continue through 2023.
9. CDMO market growth
Lured by improved time-to-market and cost-efficiency, more and more pharma companies are not only outsourcing drug manufacture, but also turning to contract development and manufacturing organisations (CDMO) for outsourced services that include product development and clinical testing as well as manufacture. The Outsourced Pharmaceutical Manufacturing 2020 review predicts this market will be worth $117.3 billion by 2023.
10. Automated adverse event monitoring
A revolution is brewing in adverse event reporting. Machine learning, particularly deep learning, can be used to process and analyse the increasingly overwhelming volume of reports and provide comprehensive insights.
11. High-tech R&D
The use of AI, machine learning, and cloud computing is also growing in R&D, with 55% of leading biopharma companies saying they’re close to taking full advantage of these innovations. Like many of 2021’s trends, this one was accelerated by COVID.
The pharma market is undoubtedly going through a transformation. But COVID didn’t start the fire; it simply added fuel to existing trends, especially in the areas of digitalisation and patient engagement.