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A decade in pharma: What happened in the 2010s?

Posted on: 06 Mar

It’s safe to say that the 2010s were a decade of innovation, and the pharmaceutical industry has not escaped the waves of change. After ten years of drug breakthroughs, developments, scandals and successes, we’re taking a look back at how the industry has changed. Whether you’re in the medical sales or pharmaceuticals industry or are simply an interested bystander, here’s what you need to know.

Drug breakthroughs and medical progress

Medical sales representatives and healthcare practitioners alike have been blessed with a buoyant decade of drug developments, with new medicines launched to treat a range of conditions. Oncology and rare diseases have been the areas most benefiting from this innovation, with oncology remaining the world’s most valuable therapy area throughout the 2010s. Since 2010 we’re seen developments such as the first anti-CTLA-4 immunotherapy for melanoma, the world’s first disease modifying therapy for cystic fibrosis, the first treatment to target the underlying cause of spinal muscular atrophy and the first treatment for postpartum depression in adult women, among other developments. Perhaps the most noteworthy drug development is that of Sovaldi, which offers a cure for hepatitis C patients who previously had none. With a launch price of US$84,000, Sovaldi also triggered much-needed conversations around drug pricing and value.

Cell therapies started to make their mark on the industry, with Yescarta and Kymriah approved to assist with deadly blood cancers, while gene therapy came of age. In December 2019 alone there were 127 ongoing advanced therapy medicinal product clinical trials in the UK, many of which employed viral vector mediated gene transfer.

Scandals hit the industry

Big Pharma came under fire in the 2010s, particularly when it came to exorbitant prices of drugs. Turing Pharmaceuticals founder and former CEO Martin Shkreli generated international headlines in 2015 when he raised the price of a drug his company acquired by more than 5,000% almost immediately. Similarly, Mylan CEO Heather Bresch was questioned over increasing the price of the EpiPen in 2016, while the Sackler Family’s Purdue Pharma ended up filing for bankruptcy after facing thousands of lawsuits related to their aggressive marketing of OxyContin. Conversations around fair and reasonable pricing of drugs is ongoing, and we expect to see this continue well into the next decade.

Digital takes over

Digitalisation has impacted almost every industry in the 2010s, and the use of digital technologies in healthcare is predicted to rise further in the 2020s. Healthcare systems are becoming more digital and are making use of big data to evaluate outcomes and drive solutions, with mobiles, wearables and connected devices increasingly being used to create services such as Omada Health and Livongo, which deliver health insights and supports. The past decade has also seen a rise in connectivity with more digital health start-ups seeking approval from the FDA, which implemented new rules in 2019 to create an easier and accelerated approvals process for digital health developers. Meanwhile, cloud computing and artificial intelligence accelerated dramatically in the last few years of the 2010s, with the mainstream introduction of everything from pharmacy apps to track prescription updates through to apps such as Babylon that serve as a doctor in your pocket. With the internet of things, blockchain and robotics continuing to influence the pharma industry, time will tell just how much technology will change the way we provide and access healthcare.

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