Pharma disruptors, challenges and opportunities

The recent Financial Times Global Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Conference provided two days of fascinating insights into the pharma industry, with discussions around the key challenges, disruptors and opportunities it is facing. Covering topics ranging from artificial intelligence to alternative funding options, and patient-centered care to pricing, the meeting brought together experts from across the healthcare ecosystem. The panel discussions, on which this post focuses, were especially valuable for highlighting and stimulating talk on topics and themes crucial to the industry.

Patient-centric care and the role of digital technology

A panel discussion centering on the pharma industry’s relationship with the patient began with an audience poll asking which players are best placed to build strong and commercially beneficial relationships with patients. Physicians and healthcare workers garnered a strong 41% of the votes, but with a very close challenge (40%) from the tech industry as an incoming disruptor in the field. The insurance industry trailed the field at 5%, with the pharma industry taking the middle ground with 14% of the vote. Jessica Scott (Head of R&D Patient Engagement Office, Takeda) noted that strict regulations have made direct communications with patients difficult, and the pharma industry has had to come up with new ways to communicate.


“41% of the attendees saw physicians and healthcare workers as best placed to build relationships with patients, while the tech industry, an incoming disruptor, came a close second at 40%“

Technology is clearly a strong force in the patient communication sphere. Dan Vehdat (CEO & Founder, Medopad) commented that real-time relationships with patients are now possible due to technology, and Lord Drayson (CEO Sensyne Health) added that technology has a huge role to play but must be used in a way to maintain society’s trust. Pharma is well placed to do this, Lord Drayson said, as pharma, in conjunction with strong regulation, has developed a lot of patient trust and confidence. The industry must now engage and show how technology can be used in a responsible way.

Eddie Martucci (CEO & Co-Founder, Akili Interactive Labs) expanded on this theme, commenting that pharma is entering an interesting phase, and what is needed is an evolution of a new industry. Consumers are getting stronger at asking for what they want, and the key to a good pharma-patient relationship is giving patients something that provides immediate value back to them. Digital therapeutics, for example, could take data from the patient, act on and evolve from that input, and return better value to the patient based upon it. Pure data monetization is not really aligned with patient interests, Dr. Martucci said; data should instead be used to improve the service provided to the patient.

This viewpoint was echoed by Hanno Ronte (Monitor Deloitte), who stated that trust comes from the individual patient experience and that the biggest value that can be obtained from data is optimizing the patient’s pathway through treatment. Data is an ecosystem, he said, with data sharing and reciprocity required. Dr Scott agreed, adding that data from clinical trials should be returned to the patient in order to build trust, and that it is down to the pharma industry to establish ways to do this. Pharma is moving from a transactional to a partnership model, Lord Drayson added.

To download the full report from the Financial Times Global Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Conference, which additionally includes coverage of sessions on pricing and value, alternative funding options, regulatory system evolution, artificial intelligence, the emerging role of China, and the value of the pharma industry, complete the form to the right.

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