Across the globe, we are witnessing fragmentations emerge across markets, and the pharmaceutical industry is no stranger to this phenomenon. As established economies grapple with growth headwinds, it is the BRIC economies that are expected to drive growth.
India will play a pivotal role in this, and as the industry now looks to pursue an accelerated growth path, the time is ripe to look at unexplored geographies, product classes and emerging innovations. According to the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance, Indian players are fast becoming global leaders with a robust pipeline of innovations in the offing – aiming for three to five new molecular entities and 10–12 incremental innovation launches per year, by 2030.
However, there are motley factors unique to India to consider. There is an increasing emphasis from the government to reduce drug prices and make medicines more affordable — for example, over the last 5 years prices of diabetes drugs are down by 42%. Control mechanisms on drug prices, while essential, have the ripple effect leaving innovation hamstrung. While affordable healthcare is undoubtedly a priority, medical advances and innovations hold the potential to greatly improve the quality and longevity of human life.
A balance is needed between rewarding innovation and meeting the demands of India’s healthcare system, to improve country’s ranking in the World Health Index, where it currently ranks 120 out of 169 countries. Proactiveness and speed is the need of the hour.
Digitization: the modern imperative
Over the course of nearly a decade, the cost of taking a drug to market has ballooned from $1.1 billion in 2010 to over $2.1 billion in 2018, according to Deloitte.
One way to ensure faster time-to-market is to embrace transformative technological advances. This leads to leads to reduction in research and product development time while saving millions of dollars in development cost as well. Digital technologies have quickly become a quintessential cog across manufacturing industries, with companies becoming transforming local to global with the adoption of technologies ranging from Industrial IoT (IIoT) to robotics to augmented reality, artificial intelligence, analytics, among others. Pharma companies can use these to improve process efficiencies, reduce iterative efforts, and increase profits.
Interestingly, one of the least explored fillips of digitization could pertain to compliance. The regulatory gaze has become stringent, as evinced by a spate of recent USFDA warning letters. Given the laxity in investigating discrepancies and following written procedures, organizations across the board need to setup robust systems that document processes and data comprehensively, without manual intervention.
This non-compliance can be laid at the door of traditional compliance management systems, that are outdated. It underlines the urgent need to migrate to automated systems coalescing a singular organizational truth. This would be a big step towards eliminating complexities inherent to antiquated systems.
The current global situation has invoked the right kind of alarm bells, compelling us to evaluate where we are, and critically analyse our lackadaisical attempt in dealing with what is yet to come. We need to be two steps ahead on compliance benchmarks, bolster manufacturing processes and secure the supply chain both for India and export markets.
The Indian pharmaceutical sector can iron cast its position by providing safe, affordable, and quality medicines through digital technologies like AI, ML, IoT, etc. that present the most efficient solutions to address these disparities.
The agility advantage
Agility and efficiency are the two strategic advantages for companies of the future. Going beyond the lowest price point benefit, pharma companies which strive to keep pace with the changing external environment and can channel quality product fastest to the market will win the race.
Given the sheer volume of manufacturing in question, it is imperative pharma companies leverage technology and realize better development, the vision of better yields in quick time at a lower cost.
As the industry moves towards a paradigm where disruption is the new normal, it can no longer be business as usual. It is differentiated thinking around drug delivery systems, molecules, packaging and more that will drive growth, making it essential that innovation is fostered at every level across the industry.
About the author
Karan Singh is the MD of ACG Group, a leading innovator in integrated manufacturing solutions for everything needed in the capsule and tablet manufacturing value chains.