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How the pharmaceutical market has transformed one year on from Covid-19 lockdowns

Posted on: 25 Mar

Covid-19 was the biggest shakeup the pharmaceutical market has experienced to date. The effects are undeniably far-reaching, and it marks a turning point in history, after which events will be known as pre-Covid or post-Covid.

To sum up how the pandemic impacted the market would almost be impossible. Especially since some effects are only just coming to light. Medication shortages, research and development shifts, and a shift towards telemedicine are just a few, but it was the migration to digital services that truly stood out. As a result, US pharmaceutical companies are projected to have spent $10 billion in 2020 on digital advertising – reflecting a 13% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) since 2014.

Here are several ways the pharmaceutical market has transformed, one year on from Covid-19 lockdowns.

A shift towards telemedicine

The pandemic may have eclipsed most other developments in the pharmaceutical market, but there are many lessons to take from the global health crisis. A recent survey found that in the wake of the pandemic, 42% of US consumers used digital health tools for the first time. Before the outbreak, many people favoured speaking to a person face-to-face. As global restrictions were introduced, the public saw the benefits of accessing medical advice remotely.

Telemedicine was on the rise before Covid-19 due to mounting healthcare cost and technological innovations, but social distancing was the true catalyst that enabled the trend to take off. The technology is bringing patients and doctors closer, but it does more than that. It offers innovative solutions to patient recruitment for clinical trials – one of the more expensive aspects of drug development – and is changing the way medical sales representative sell medicine and medical devices .

Reshaping the pharmaceutical supply chain

The pandemic revealed a truth that much of the pharmaceutical industry knew, but few had paid close enough attention to. When news of the novel coronavirus broke, chemical plants across China were forced to shut down production. Not long after, pharmaceutical supply chains began to break down. And it’s no surprise when you consider that China accounts for 40% of the global API (active pharmaceutical ingredients) market .

To secure themselves from the volatility in the API market, pharmaceutical companies are shifting their focus towards building supply chain resilience. The pharmaceutical market is known for its innovation , so there is no doubt that it will restructure the production process in a way that means it is less dependant on the ever-growing Chinese market.

Approval delays for non-Covid-related products

Particularly in the early months of the Covid-19 outbreak, the pharmaceutical industry diverted away from ongoing developments, and PwC remarked: “The FDA has been hyper-focused on addressing the Covid-19 pandemic”. Meetings that weren't essential were postponed or cancelled, and approval deadlines for new drugs and devices were missed.

While this might initially sound like another pandemic setback, there are notable benefits of having so many resources ploughed into the fight against the pandemic. As the world rallied together to develop a Covid-19 vaccination, it came to light that a combination of boosted funding and pre-purchase agreements could cut down the timeline for drug manufacturing to a level never thought possible before. Covid-19 set the stage, enabling the pharmaceutical to, once again, make history.

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