Top Five 2021 Predictions for Pharma

The year 2020 brought with it transformative events that will likely impact the way the pharmaceutical industry does business.  Here I will discuss five 2021 predictions for pharma. 

1. Greater Collaboration & Partnerships

The urgent need for an effective Covid19 vaccine forced companies to think about collaborations and partnerships with academia, emerging biotech’s and other subject matter experts differently.  The benefits are far reaching, including cutting down drug development time and thinking about supply chain management more efficiently. We will see more big pharma companies pursuing partnerships with emerging small pharma in many cases versus buying them outright. 

2. How We Conduct Clinical Trial Research Will Change 

The days of having patients go to several disparate sites and placing the recruiting burden on physicians may be over, at least in part.  Greater reliance on population level data and big data set mining will increase with advances in technology such as machine learning making us more efficient at patient recruitment.

Remote consultations with investigators and the increasing use of wearable technologies and point of care diagnostics will facilitate at-home patient monitoring. 

3. Virtual HCP Engagement is Here to Stay 

Covid19 taught pharma that it needs to reinvent itself and do more than product messaging.  We will see better support services for HCPs.  Greater reliance in digital technology and analytics with more personalized service and information for. HCPs.  Many HCPs may never go back to business as usual.  Efficiencies unearthed during Covid19 will be permanently removed from the equation forcing pharma reps to adapt to the new environment. In turn, this will mean that future pharma reps need to have a broader set of skills. 

4. MSLs Will Play an Even Bigger Role in How Pharma Companies Stay Relevant 

Medical science liaisons have increasingly become more and more important as the face to the HCP community.  Covid19 will only accelerate this as most up and coming HCPs (many of whom are millennials) prefer to get their information from their peers (MD, PharmD, NP/PA or PhD professionals). This means that MSLs will need to learn how to ensure there are meaningful interactions in a virtual environment which can be tricky.  This is one of the reasons, board certifications like the Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist (BCMAS) program are including sections in their training and curriculum on virtual KOL engagement and digital technology in medical affairs. 

5. There Will Be An Even Greater Effort to Mitigate Liability 

Covid19, it turns out, has had a net zero effect on improving the Pharmaceutical industry’s reputation according to a new report by the Caliber group for instance.  The data suggest that a country’s GDP is inversely correlated with pharma trust and similar scores.  This data appears to support the 2019 Gallup Poll which found that the Pharmaceutical industry ranked lowest among 25 industries when it came to trust by the American people. 

Big pharma companies tend to do worse than smaller companies.  One of the ways we are seeing larger companies combat public perception issues is by certifying and credentialing their MSL teams in medical affairs. Since the MSL teams are becoming the primary face to the HCP community certainly.

These efforts can help not only mitigate risk but also improve public perception of the pharmaceutical industry among the public for instance . 

You Can See These 2021 Predications Coming from A Mile Away

Lastly, Here’s one last note on drug regulatory authorities, such as the FDA, AMD and EMA. Covid19 forced regulatory bodies to reexamine how they could streamline the drug approval process and many of these new and improved processes, such as embracing digital technologies are here to stay.  

In light of Covid19, the pharma industry is undergoing rapid, fundamental changes, which have provided an opportunity for significant innovation. Hopefully these changes will result in better quality of care and patient outcomes in 2021 certainly. 

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