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How has technology helped to transform Pharma?

Posted on: 15 Mar

Responsible for researching and developing the latest drugs, finding cures for inherited diseases, and tackling the latest strain of virus, the pharmaceutical industry covers everything from creating vaccines to developing the latest chemically synthesised drugs. Providing employment for millions of people, it is also a vital lifeline for the millions of people who suffer from diseases and illness around the world. 

Today, the worldwide market for pharmaceuticals is predicted to grow to $1.3 trillion by 2020, at a growth rate of around 4.9%. Clearly, the demand for high quality healthcare, and for newer, faster and more efficient drugs and devices to supply to hospitals around the world, has never been higher - and one of the biggest factors that is set to have an impact on the industry is that of technology. The pharma sector has always relied on the latest, cutting-edge technology to constantly improve its client offerings, and provide better ways of tackling viruses or diseases. The massive growth that has taken place over the past decades in technology is allowing scientists to push the boundaries of healthcare and research like never before. 

Today, technology is affecting every area of the pharmaceutical industry. From medical sales to big data, the way in which scientists and salespeople alike are using it to connect with patients, work on medical breakthroughs, and even explore new avenues of research to transform the sector.

Here are some of the biggest developments to look out for.

Better patient care

Thanks to the spread of technology, the way in which many companies do business is starting to change to a more customer-focused model that builds on the ease of access offered by the internet. Now, governments are starting to introduce procedures like e-prescribing, which lets healthcare payers access prescriptions more easily, and gives patients who have difficulty accessing a doctor the chance to contact one remotely. In a market with a rapidly-aging world population, and a corresponding rise in chronic disease, better communication with patients, via portals and apps, may well prove a lifeline to millions of patients. 

Indeed, many large firms are also making the switch to a more patient-oriented approach, engaging with the end consumer via technology to provide them with support and assistance. AstraZeneca’s Day-by-Day app, for instance, provides support and coaching for heart-attack patients through digital content and live chat, whilst Novartis’ Together in HF was launched in January as a heart failure social network. Through technology, these big firms are not only developing a closer connection with their patients, but gathering data that could help them to cure more illnesses or diseases in the future.

More data

Big data is one of healthcare’s buzzwords this year, and for good reason: it has the potential to revolutionise and speed up the way in which drugs and devices are developed and researched. The rise in technology has resulted in more efficient ways of gathering data, whether that’s from patient smartphones, wearable apps that track the amount of iron in the blood, or intensive medical trials. 

It has become easier than ever to collect vast amounts of patient data and then analyse it. With such a wealth of data at the hands of scientists, from patients or clinical research trials, the possibility of finding previously impossible patterns in millions of entries, or making new medical breakthroughs, is unprecedented. Expect this sector to take off in the coming years. 

Nanotechnology and genomes

Advances in technology have allowed scientists to start manipulating matter at a molecular level, and to make new discoveries in nanotechnology. A relatively new industry, nanotechnology is rapidly taking off in the pharmaceutical landscape: indeed, the global market is expected to grow by around 17% between 2017-2024.

Nanotechnology also heralds a shift in the way the pharmaceutical industry operates, as it is helping shift focus away from the hunt for the next panacea, in favour of developing drug therapies that are personalised to the user. Though the development of ‘novel’ drugs is coming to an end, advances in areas like genetics have allowed scientists to identify new ways of targeting and treating diseases, based on the new understanding of human biology that nanotechnology has given them. 

Nanotechnology has made it easier than ever for the same scientists to deliver tailored drug solutions to patients, and is still paving the way for new developments: for instance, scientists recently incorporated nano-scale drugs into liposomes, thus vastly increasing the efficiency of disease treatment in patients.  

This transformation has also spread into genetics, with scientists making medical breakthroughs in treating previously incurable diseases through advancements such as DNA-editing CRISPR, which essentially uses molecular scissors to alter DNA strands, or target multiple regions of DNA simultaneously: indeed, the first human trials are already happening in China and this type of genome editing could soon become a revolution in healthcare. 

Medical Sales

Better technology hasn’t only benefitted Research and Development, it’s also done wonders for marketing, and for medical sales in particular. With the advent of Cloud storage, salespeople can have remote access to documents, learning materials, and new information whenever they need it, thus making their job easier than ever and making it easier to close their sales deals. 

Similarly, marketing is also set to change drastically over the coming years, as the industry shifts from a mass-market to a target-market approach that comes with the shift in product development within the pharma sector. Many of the specialist medicines that the industry is currently creating - for more information on why orphan drugs are taking off, have a look at our article here - are aimed at people who have rare or uncommon diseases or conditions; as a result, pharma will have to start providing more support for medical education programmes and educating the general public if they want to raise awareness, keep doctors up to date with the latest technology, and generate sales. 

Today, through websites, social media, and the internet, audiences are more connected to pharma companies than ever before.

Looking to the future

Technology has already transformed the way in which pharma operates. From patient communication to the way in which Medical Sales Representatives go about their jobs, technology allows people to be more connected than ever before and is allowing scientists to explore new avenues, and take advantage of new software to make new discoveries. 

At IQVIA™, we like to keep our finger on the pulse of the changing pharmaceutical industry so we can continue matching the freshest talent to the best jobs in the sector. For more industry insights, why not have a look at our articles here, or browse our jobs here?