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The future healthcare system discussed

Pharmaceutical industry leaders gather to discuss how the industry should respond to changes taking place in healthcare

Pharmaceutical industry leaders from across 14 countries gathered at the 2010 Pharma Summit, hosted by Economist Conferences, on February 11, to discuss how the industry should respond to changes taking place in healthcare. Panel discussions focussed on developments driven by advances in technology and the empowered patient, and how pharma should be innovating to meet these changes. 

Keynote speaker, David Brennan, chief executive officer of AstraZeneca (AZ) opened the proceedings with his vision for the future of pharma. He said that he thought the byline for this year's event – "competing in the future healthcare system" – was very appropriate considering the biopharma sector is part of a larger 'system' that incorporates patients, payers, academics and governments. Success in the future, Brennan noted, would be for those that understood the customer and built meaningful relationships with other stakeholders in this system.

According to Brennan, future trends for the industry include a shift towards the emerging markets, which are growing at three times the rate of developed markets, biologics, which will account for 50 per cent of the market in coming years, and the development of personalised medicine. However, the rate at which these changes are adopted by industry is uncertain, due to market-related challenges such as the patent cliff, generic competition, the pending impact of the global economic crisis and changes to the US healthcare system. Accurately predicting the right timing for investment in these areas would be a differentiator for success, he said. 

Brennan advised that companies pick a strategy: either diversify or specify ie streamline and focus, He said AZ planned to concentrate its efforts on building and extending its core strengths and not diversifying. Through eight newly-formed business units, the company would focus on improving R&D in six key disease areas. The challenge would be to truly differentiate.

"Standards are higher, and this is forcing us to get better," said Brennan. He qualified, however, that because the hurdles are much higher insofar that health economics is more important than ever before, and the number of approvals is falling, AZ would not invest in developing drugs that could not be truly differentiated or were in areas where there is competition from other branded and generic options. The strategic imperative would be to focus on innovation and bringing drugs to market in areas of unmet clinical need.

Other topics addressed by speakers on the day were patients driving healthcare innovation: how patients are changing the system and society around them by taking control of their health, the future of healthcare technology and emerging markets: different rules and fresh thinking.

15th February 2010

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