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Smart Thinking blog

Insights and expert advice on the key issues facing today’s pharma marketer

Collaborate to survive


The pharma and life sciences industries are being buffeted by major shifts in technology, data, funding, demographics and patient expectations – all happening at the same time. According to industry expert Professor Brian D Smith, these changes are extremely significant, and pharma companies will need to adapt their value propositions in order to survive: “The last time so many powerful changes converged,” he says, “was in the late 19th century, a period that saw the extinction of apothecaries and the birth of modern life sciences companies. We should expect a flowering of business models as dramatic as that seen by our great-great-grandparents, marked by the survival of those who anticipated the change and the extinction of those who did not.”

So what sort of adaptive behaviours are needed? In my view, one of the essentials is going to be the ability to collaborate really effectively. To give an example, look at the opportunities presented by some of the converging trends in data and technology. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are helping us discover new drugs faster and diagnose diseases more accurately. Health apps and wearables are starting to prove their worth in conditions like diabetes and asthma by reducing the need for limited healthcare resources, improving outcomes and potentially saving our NHS hundreds of millions of pounds a year. Meanwhile, the promise of real-world data (RWD) is being realised. And what’s really interesting is that all of these things are happening alongside a power shift in the doctor-patient relationship. Patients are becoming increasingly well informed and want – quite rightly – to be treated as equals and partners in managing their conditions. So we now have the ideal circumstances for patient-entered data to be integrated into RWD projects – an approach that not only reduces the data burden on hard-pressed clinicians, but can also refocus study design on outcomes that matter to patients.

Quality RWD will give companies, clinicians, patients and payers new ways of evaluating treatment options, driving greater transparency and enhancing evidence-based practice. Such a model promises great benefits, since it opens up the potential for pharma, clinicians and patients to all analyse the same data and speak the same language in terms of outcomes, efficacy, safety and value. However, it also involves multiple stakeholders and moving parts, and will need careful coordination to unlock the benefits.

Another challenge is presented by the complexity of some of the most difficult healthcare issues in the 21st century, such as obesity and dementia, which need multi-agency approaches. The increasing demand caused by medical advances and an ageing population, set against a background of tightening budgets, is leading the drive towards value-based healthcare, measured against agreed quality standards and outcomes. These conditions give companies the chance to be part of a holistic solution that properly addresses a complicated public health problem. Working for the common good in collaboration with clinical and patient organisations – and even competing companies – can go a long way to improving public and payer trust in pharma. More importantly perhaps, it can harness a broader range of expertise and resources than any one sector or agency working alone, leading to better, more sustainable solutions. As collaboration guru David Straus has written: ‘With good process, people can generate more creative and comprehensive solutions collaboratively than they can by themselves.’

For me, the key word here is process. Effective coalitions and partnerships don’t happen by themselves. Building them requires an investment in time, attention and expertise. Successful alliances require solid foundations that are built on mutual trust, a common purpose and clear goals, defined principles and practices, and recognition of roles, responsibilities and benefits. They need structure and a well-facilitated process.

Independent third parties can bridge the gap between companies, healthcare professionals and patient groups, defining and working in the area where commercial, clinical and patient objectives naturally overlap. Pharma leaders should consider bringing in agencies and consultants with the right skills and experience to set up, nurture and deliver sophisticated multi-stakeholder or multi-company initiatives, if they are to survive and thrive in this new era.

By Claire Munro, founder and director of Dovetail


26th July 2018

From: Sales



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