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Mal Bernard discusses a pharma apocalype - what would happen if the industry failed?

Mal Bernard discusses a pharma apocalype - what would happen if the industry failed? | Pharma_News |

'Mal Bernard' returns to eyeforpharma to question the ethical issues our industry faces as well as to examine what would happen to pharmaceuticals if it faced a recession-style meltdown...

The world faced its greatest challenge in recent history back in 2008; the financial crisis that engulfed world economies saw the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Northern Rock and others. Confronted with the possibility of a total collapse of our banking system, world governments stepped in, saving the financial industry to the tune of several trillion dollars of tax payers’ money. While the trillion-dollar life raft offered up by Western World Inc. didn’t resolve all of our issues, I shudder to think about what might have happened had that support not been there.

I am not alone in thinking that we simply cannot allow the financial industry to fail, and so we groan under the weight of this bloated industry in the knowledge that if we buckle, life as we know it could end.

Now let me put this to you – what if it happened again? Only this time instead of our financial markets, the companies to collapse were those that provided us with chemotherapy, or insulin, or a number of other lifesaving treatments. What then? We already know that the spiralling cost of drugs is threatening the sustainability of pharma – so what would happen if a major company was on the brink of collapse? Could we cope? Would we prop them up?

The answer to the above question is obvious – we could not afford for even a single major pharma company to fall. Despite the negative press and the public’s somewhat misguided perception, the pharma industry performs a vital role in our world, and were it to face collapse it would literally be a life or death situation.

Of course, I’m not saying we’re on the brink of collapse – not even close, at all. However for all our talk about sales force effectiveness, e-detailing, KAMs, has anyone ever discussed the worst case scenario? Let’s look at this and ask, hypothetically, what would happen if pharma failed?

Looking back in history there were plagues that wiped out entire generations. Today you switch on the news and here about pandemics, swine flu, avian flu, this pandemic and that pandemic. If it ever came to the worst, our defence against that potential tsunami is pharma. We cannot do without pharma; it is intrinsically linked with who we are.

This brings us to another question. There is an ethical dilemma which is more critical within pharma than it is in other sectors, and it is this:

“If we cannot afford for pharma to fail, and if the industry is aware of this, does it have a moral obligation to conduct itself responsibly?”

Or, to put it another way, can we afford for them to be as reckless as our financial institutions have been in recent years?

At the end of the day, for all of the miraculous and life-saving solutions the industry can give us, they are in the business of making money. And without that money, they won’t produce the life-saving drugs we need.

Let’s be clear here, there’s a reason that pharmaceutical products are called “drugs”, there is a dependency on pharma products like no other. If Coca-Cola went bust tomorrow, we might miss it, but we’ll live without it. If Apple went down, we might not get our shiny new toys, but we’ll live. But if Roche, GSK or Janssen went tits-up?

In studies which have previously ranked pharma’s reputation, it frequently finds itself sharing a space next to the energy companies. The reasons are rarely out of the public eye but ultimately, it's an issue of dependency. When the public are dependent on your product you have to work hard to demonstrate you're not taking advantage of your position.

I’m not looking at our industry through rose-tinted glasses (have you ever known me to do that?). We’re far from perfect. As pipelines and margins continue to dry up, the industry is starting to panic. And staff retreat to what they know. So, despite the need for change, it comes slowly, if it comes at all. So big are these companies that they’re tripping over their own red tape. No one is enacting the required changes quick enough and I imagine some never will.

A few months ago, eyeforpharma hosted a dinner in London with some of the industry’s most interesting minds. After being asked what one single change he’d like to see, Dr Leandro Herrero (CEO of the Chalfont Project) responded: “I’d like to try to see if I could create a Lehman Brothers situation”. You can see him say this here. The point is, it would take a collapse on that scale to bring about any real change.

Here’s another question for you – are we even in a position to save the industry if we had to? Could we afford it? As mentioned in the opening paragraph, after realising that bailing out banks wasn’t good enough, we had to move onto entire countries. And we still have several nations on the sick list. Before you know it every major government will be maxing their credit cards to save struggling EU countries. So if it ever happened I ask you, where would the money come from to bail out another struggling industry? Do we have the resources to cover a pharma collapse?

The point to all of this is that yes, pharma is too big to be allowed to fail. But pharma as an industry knows this. Two phrases come to mind – “knowledge is power” and “with great power comes great responsibility”.

Meanwhile, all we can do is speculate. Until the “powers that be” see that a fundamental shift in our industry is needed, we’ll continue to ask the same questions, continue to receive the same answers, and continue to procrastinate and do nothing. Surely that's just as irresponsible isn't it?

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GSK, Merck use social media to learn how patients use drugs outside the lab | MobiHealthNews

GSK, Merck use social media to learn how patients use drugs outside the lab | MobiHealthNews | Pharma_News |

We’ve written before about Epidemico, a startup that grew out of the Boston Children’s Hospital’s work on combing social media for medical and health data. Today at the Health 2.0 conference in Santa Clara, California, Greg Powell, director of pharmacovigilance at GlaxoSmithKline, talked about how the pharma company uses the data it collects from its partnership with Epidemico.

“People really are communicating a lot online on social media,” Powell said. “There’s actually a wealth of information here that potentially hasn’t been tapped into until recently. The question is ‘If people are talking about our products, should we be listening to what they’re saying?’ The answer is ‘Of course’.”

GlaxoSmithKline collected data about public postings on Twitter and Facebook that mentioned any of a list of 1,000 of the companies drugs. Altogether, they found more than 6 million hits on Twitter and more than 15 million hits on Facebook.

“To put that in perspective, there’s more adverse events discussions online, in social media, in one year than there are in the FDA database since it started in 1968,” Powell said.

Epidemico helps GSK to filter that data, eliminate the noise posts, de-identify it (which importantly helps GSK get around FDA reporting requirements) and standardized the language around things like drug names and medical conditions.

The company uses the data more or less the same way it uses drug safety and usage data from other sources, Powell said: it gets turned over to the drug safety team, which identifies trends and takes action if necessary. In at least one case, Facebook postings monitored through this initiative directly led to a recall of an over-the-counter offering in Australia that had a manufacturing defect.

But sometimes social media turns out data that’s not really like anything pharma companies have ever had access to before. For instance, the company has come across rich sources of information about how people are abusing their drugs.

“There are three websites particularly rich in abuse data,” he said. “What people are doing on these websites is they’re actually coordinating clinical trial activities on abuse. They want to abuse drugs, get the maximum high out of it, and they don’t want to kill themselves doing it. So what they’re doing is they’re actually going in and telling people and coordinating, collecting data on the highs they get, collecting safety data, and then communicating to the abuse community how to abuse the drug.”

This can help the company make its drugs harder to abuse, and it’s information that simply doesn’t exist elsewhere.

“People don’t call their pharmaceutical companies and say ‘This is how I’m abusing your drug’,” he said. “They don’t go into their medical records and say ‘Can you add in that I’m snorting Bupropion?’”

The data can also be unexpectedly rich in helping compare adverse events to benefits of the drug. Twenty-nine percent of drug mentions the company has tracked mention the benefits patients received and 16 percent contextualize benefits around adverse events — as in “this drug gave me a migraine, but it was worth it”. Eleven percent of postings compared the drug to other treatment options.

Listening in on social media also helps GSK take the pulse on how well they’re communicating to their patients. By looking at the 6 percent of mentions that were information seeking, the company can identify information it isn’t presenting well.

In addition to the GSK presentation, Tim Fitzgerald, a Director in Merck’s Center for Observational and Real-World Evidence spoke at the event about how his company has used data from PatientsLikeMe. While GSK used social media data for postmarket research, Merck used PatientsLikeMe to do premarket research on Belsombra, an insomnia drug.

“Belsomra was launched in February of this year,” Fitzgerald said. “I did this project prior to launch with the idea to try to get a gauge on what is working, what is not working with the generic medications. To get an idea of what are patients saying about the drugs as far as their satisfaction. And then get into what are their sleep outcomes.”

What Merck found by examining data from the 90,000 insomnia patients on PatientsLikeMe was that even patients who tell their doctor they’re satisfied with their sleep medication are often continuing to have sleep problems. The benefits of existing drugs tended to decline over time and, most interestingly, people said the drugs worked to help them get to sleep, but didn’t keep them from waking up in the middle of the night.

The value proposition for Belsomra addressed some of these problems: it was designed to work over the long term for chronic insomnia, and to help people sleep the whole night. The data, Fitzgerald said, helped Merck to decide how best to market the drug.

At this same session last year, Genentech shared details about their partnership with PatientsLikeMe and other patient communities, and how they were using those insights.

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Celgene to Use Cypher Genomics’ Data Analytics in Drug Development

Celgene to Use Cypher Genomics’ Data Analytics in Drug Development | Pharma_News |

Under a collaboration announced today, San Diego-based Cypher Genomics said it would use its biomarker discovery service to help New Jersey’s Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG) identify key genetic variants among patients who respond well to specific drugs.

If successful, the use of Cypher’s proprietary technology to pinpoint such “functional variants” could enable a drug maker to meet its end-point goals in late-stage clinical trials with far fewer patients, Cypher COO Adam Simpson said yesterday. The potential savings could be huge.

Genetic variation accounts for widely varying response rates that patients show to prescription drugs. As a result, doctors often prescribe a variety of drugs through a trial and error process until they see the appropriate patient response.

Unfortunately, at least a third of the money spent on prescription drugs in the United States is wasted, according to a 2012 study co-authored by Eric Topol, a Cypher Genomics co-founder and a prominent scientific advocate for using a patient’s own genomic data to determine the optimal drug therapy. Topol, who is a San Diego cardiologist, genomic researcher, and director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute (among other things), contends that wasteful patient spending on prescribed drugs that are ineffective or even harmful amounts to more than $100 billion a year in the United States alone.

As co-author Andrew Harper and Topol wrote:

Perhaps the best example of both waste and missed opportunity can be found with the three top-grossing prescription drugs worldwide; TNF α-receptor inhibitors (etanercept (Enbrel), infliximab (Remicade) and adalimumab (Humira)), are used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis with aggregate sales of nearly $30 billion. However, these three specific biological agents cost more than $15,000 per patient annually and only 40 percent of individuals respond to treatment.

“What we’re trying to do at Cypher is enable that type of companion diagnostics,” Simpson said, referring to diagnostic tests, including genome sequencing, that identify biomarkers that can be used to determine which patients could be helped by a particular drug and which would not.

While Cypher has conducted genome analytics in previous pharmaceutical studies, Simpson said Cypher’s collaboration with Celgene would be its first official study done with a major pharma. So how much savings could a pharmaceutical realize by using Cypher’s analytics?

Simpson said a study that applied the potential benefits of Cypher’s technology to the actual late-stage trial done for the prostate drug finasteride suggests that Merck could have saved as much as $211 million. That’s because Cypher’s analytics would have reached valid findings with about 1,000 patients instead of the 8,000-plus patients that Merck actually enrolled. The same study said a late-stage trial for the diabetes drug metformin, conducted with about 3,000 patients, could have been done with less than 1,000 with Cypher’s technology—at an estimated savings of about $63 million.

Simpson declined to discuss the financial terms of Cypher’s partnership with Celgene, saying he would not comment on their relationship beyond the press release.

Cypher Genomics developed Coral, its proprietary, high-speed information technology to annotate and analyze the computerized data generated by so-called next-generation genome sequencing machines like Illumina’s HiSeq X Ten. The company also has developed Mantis, a software-as-a-service offering that uses its core genome interpretation technology to identify genetic variants among patients whose genomes have been sequenced.

According to Cypher, manual processes for interpreting genomic data are prohibitively slow and costly (estimated at about $15,000 per genome).

Cypher says its automated genome interpretation technology can quickly identify genetic markers and their contribution to therapeutic responses and disease management. In today’s statement, the company quotes Cypher CEO Ashley Van Zeeland as saying, “Cypher has shown through multiple validation studies that our Coral technology can find novel biomarker signatures in genomic data from small clinical studies.”


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Apple ResearchKit: Three Reasons For Pharma To Be Optimistic

Apple ResearchKit: Three Reasons For Pharma To Be Optimistic | Pharma_News |
At Apple’s much-anticipated Watch launch event in San Francisco yesterday they delivered what was largely a surprise announcement. For months there has been speculation about the Watch and its possible implications and applications for health. Recently these expectations had been diminished by leaked reports of greatly scaled back integrated sensor technology..

Via Alex Butler
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Novartis Pharmaceuticals announces a joint investment company with Qualcomm leading innovation in digital medicines for physicians and patients

Novartis establishing a joint investment company with Qualcomm Ventures of up to USD 100 million to support early stage companies with technologies, products or services that "go beyond the pill"Digital technologies can optimize the value of innovative medicines by providing integrated solutions for physicians and patients and changing the practice of medicineQualcomm Ventures, the venture investment group of Qualcomm Incorporated, is a leading global investor in wireless technologies and one of the most active strategic investors in digital health

Basel, January 12, 2015 - Novartis Pharmaceuticals announced today the establishment of a joint  investment company with Qualcomm Ventures to target early stage companies who offer technologies, products or services that "go beyond the pill" to benefit physicians and patients.

"By working with Qualcomm Ventures, Novartis sees the opportunity to take a greater leadership role in introducing new mobile or digital technologies that have the potential to change the practice of medicine and bring more breakthroughs with real benefits to patients and society," said David Epstein, Division Head, Novartis Pharmaceuticals. "We are excited by the potential of digital medicines to further enhance our mission of the right drug for the right patient at the right time helping people live longer with a better quality of life giving more time to do the things that matter to them."

Digital and mobile technologies are expected to make a significant difference in the pharmaceutical industry.  New technologies are emerging such as telephone enabled devices, mobile applications, wearable devices, and technologies for big and small data to enable delivery of the right medicine to the right patients and more robust pharmacoeconomic analyses. The establishment of the joint investment company combines the knowledge of Novartis' innovation in the research, development and manufacturing of innovative medicines with Qualcomm's expertise in digital and mobile technologies.

This press release contains expressed or implied forward-looking statements, including statements that can be identified by terminology such as "can," "target," "opportunity," "potential," "mission," "expected," or similar expressions. Such forward-looking statements reflect the current views of the Group regarding future events, and involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause actual results to be materially different from any future results expressed or implied by such statements. These expectations could be affected by, among other things, risks and factors referred to in the Risk Factors section of Novartis AG's current Form 20-F on file with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Novartis is providing the information in this press release as of this date and does not undertake any obligation to update it in the future.

About Novartis
Novartis provides innovative healthcare solutions that address the evolving needs of patients and societies. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis offers a diversified portfolio to best meet these needs: innovative medicines, eye care, cost-saving generic pharmaceuticals, preventive vaccines and over-the-counter products. Novartis is the only global company with leading positions in these areas. In 2013, the Group achieved net sales of USD 57.9 billion, while R&D throughout the Group amounted to approximately USD 9.9 billion (USD 9.6 billion excluding impairment and amortization charges). Novartis Group companies employ approximately 130,000 full-time-equivalent associates and sell products in more than 150 countries around the world. For more information, please visit

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Restoring the pharmaceutical industry's reputation : Nature Biotechnology

Restoring the pharmaceutical industry's reputation : Nature Biotechnology | Pharma_News |

Big pharma's storehouse of trouble has fostered consumer mistrust and a negative view of the industry. How does the industry go about restoring its flagging reputation?


Click the title to read artcle at source 

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Pharmaceutical R&D Innovation | KPMG | GLOBAL

Pharmaceutical R&D Innovation | KPMG | GLOBAL | Pharma_News |
KPMG’s new report Growing the pipeline, growing the bottom line: Shifts in pharmaceutical R&D innovation looks at the research challenge through the eyes of senior R&D executives from some of the world’s leading pharma companies.
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Key Strategies that Pharma Companies Shouldn’t Ignore in 2014

Key Strategies that Pharma Companies Shouldn’t Ignore in 2014 | Pharma_News |

Scan through recent announcements from pharmaceutical companies and one will see recurrent themes including expanded R&D pipelines, focused efforts on core capabilities and tax inversion benefits.IBM’s Life Sciencesteam recently interviewed Professor Frank Cespedes and Board Member Michael Wong from the Harvard Business School community to see if there were other sources of value during these transformational times for the industry.

Q. Recent pharma announcements seem to have focused on a few key themes; what other sources of value might they be missing out in their pursuits?

A. (F. Cespedes) R&D provides a crucial component of pharma’s sustainability and always will. But the percentage of total resources invested in R&D is less than the dollars invested in Sales activities. If you look at U.S. companies in general, they invest almost $900 billion annually in sales forces—more than three times the amount that they invest for all media advertising, and twenty times more than the total spend on digital marketing. Yet research indicates that on average, companies deliver only about 50-60% of the financial performance that their strategies promise. These suboptimal results signify a significant amount of wasted money and managerial effort.

Q. But haven’t pharmcos already uncovered value from past investments in sales efforts and it is now time to look at other strategic opportunities?

A. (M. Wong) Not necessarily because while there were efforts that led to tremendous value for some companies,  the industry is at an interesting juncture given that many firms have equipped their teams with similar tools (laptops, smart phones, etc.). Now, the crucible for them is to figure out how to creatively configure these assets with their human capital to deliver value to their clients.

Read more about how IBM is helping its clients improve this line of business at:

Q.  But aren’t innovative products more important than sales reps to customers?

A. (F. Cespedes) I would say that innovative products are as important, not more important, than efficient and effective sales efforts. The key to linking strategy and sales usefully is, first, to understand how market factors affect required sales tasks. The fact is, these tasks have changed significantly in pharma over the past decade due to regulatory factors, changes in buyers and buying behavior, M&A activity, and differences in the strategies of individual pharma firms. Then, the issue is aligning actual selling behaviors with those required tasks and using the appropriate levers for doing so. The key levers are: People—how you hire, train, develop their skills and attributes over time so they are good at executing your strategy, not those of a generic selling methodology; Performance Management systems that help to influence behavior, especially sales compensation and incentive systems; and the Sales Force Environment—how communication works across organizational boundaries, for instance, is a growing requirement for effective selling at pharma firms.

Q. What business analogues can you provide where you have seen such creative deployment of technology with Sales Force members, which led to commercial success?

A. (M. Wong) For a division at one company, they leveraged systems to create balanced scorecards that provided insights on their strategic plan’s progress. Sales results, from a single source of trusted data, were transparently shared across teams. Second, the business units were empowered to include additional key performance indicators (KPIs) that addressed local needs. One team tracked the career movement of their reps since many of them were promoted into HQs. While good for those promoted, it sometimes led to prolonged periods of vacant territories and hence these KPIs helped pivot recruiting towards hiring individuals who were interested in long-term territory assignments. Finally, these scorecards served as a trusted tool that could be leveraged for mid-year and year-end performance reviews. In terms of observed performance, in under two years, this team moved from the bottom half of 31 business units to 2nd in the country. Here is a good read on this domain: Analytics Across the Enterprise.

Q. Why is a single, trusted view of data so important?

A. (M. Wong) With the restructurings that have hit pharma during the past decade, the focus on each employee’s contribution has likely never been under greater scrutiny. Having a single source of trusted data provides objective context for how internal employees are contributing towards the company’s strategies. Single sources of data are being used by some of IBM’s clients via “Next Best Action Optimizers”. These are tools that contain rich sets of attribute libraries and a proprietary clustering algorithm which can help catalyze customer variables into actionable segments for targeting. They are leveraging them so that they’re able to secure similar benefits that other industries like Insurance have captured, where increased retention rates up to 40% were secured by identifying which customers should be contacted by an agent’s representative. Data quality and analytics have moved up as the highest priorities in this industry to achieve the company’s strategy, as we learn in this site.

Finally, it enables deeper analysis for resource allocation which is still significant per Cegedim Strategic Data’s recent report; “…pharma companies spent just under $85 billion on their sales forces and various marketing channels in 2013, about equal to 2012 spending levels.”

A. (F. Cespedes) I would only add that this single view is increasingly important, in pharma and other industries, because of the impact of the internet and social media on go-to-market effectiveness. The options available to customers put more pressure on the rep’s value added during the sales experience. And the reality is that, no matter how you organize your sales force, most firms today require a multichannel approach: online and face-to-face sales initiatives. A common view of the customer is vital to making that work.

Q. What is your forecast for the pharmaceutical industry?

A. (F. Cespedes) For those companies that are able to successfully link their strategy to daily sales activities and motivate them to engage well with their customers, I see a turnaround in terms of growth and opportunity. But this requires an ongoing systemic approach and not just a motivational speech, a grand off-site, or an allegedly all-purpose selling methodology. Unfortunately, when under pressure, many companies do opt for these quick fixes; they may be quick, but they’re rarely a fix. By contrast, those firms that are able to link the levers of People, Performance Management, and Environment will find that sales results and strategy formulation improve. Industry is not destiny: not now, not ever. As always, management counts. It’s human performance that drives operating performance in the marketplace, which in turn drives financial performance, not the other way around.

A. (M. Wong) Given what the high-tech industry experienced during the late 1980s; I envision a similar landscape for pharmcos. Just as high-tech had a number of historically well-regarded firms like Digital Equipment flounder, we’ll likely see similar patterns again within pharma. To build a sustainable entity, it will be important for pharmaceutical companies to creatively address Professor Cespedes’ assertions around their strategic sales and marketing activities. With so many exciting developments around mobile apps, social media, cloud, and predictive analytics to name a few; the test is not only selecting which ones make best sense for an entity, but also determining how to secure high-employee engagement levels so that people embrace such changes.

Looking at the high-tech industry as an analogue, the good news is that many pharmas will likely bounce back just like Apple did, who recently earned recognition as Fortune’s Most Admired Company. The better news is that research has shown how this type of recognition has strong correlations with shareholder value; which can benefit both stockholders and hardworking employees.

Read more about IBM Life Sciences Industry Capabilities & Offerings at:


Frank Cespedesis the MBA Class of 1973, Senior Lecturer of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. He has run a business, served on Boards for start-ups and corporations, and consulted to many companies around the world. He is the author of six books and many articles in Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal, California Management Review, and other publications. His latest book, Aligning Strategy and Sales: The Choices, Systems, and Behaviors that Drive Effective Selling (Harvard Business Review Press) is available now for preorder on Frank can be reached at

Michael W. Wong serves as a Board Member of the Harvard Business School Healthcare Alumni Association. He has over 20 years of sales, marketing and strategy experience working at companies including Apple Computer, AstraZeneca, IBM, and Merck. His insights have been shared in publications including the MIT Sloan Management Review,Harvard Business Review Blog Network, Philadelphia Social Innovations Journal, and PM360. Mike can be reached at

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What's in pharma's future? Patient centricity, healthcare services, competition with big data firms

What's in pharma's future? Patient centricity, healthcare services, competition with big data firms | Pharma_News |

Healthcare reform is prompting consolidation and leaner pharmaceutical companies and personalized medicine applications are a source of growing interest. But what other trends figure in to the future of the life sciences industry? How about adding healthcare services and competition with big data analysis companies? Those were a couple of the findings from an Industry Healthcheck survey of 1,600 pharmacy professionals by EyeforPharma.

The 971 who responded included managers (39 percent), directors (30 percent), consultants (10 percent), CEOs (9 percent), and sales reps (9 percent). Most of the respondents are in Europe, Asia and the U.S. The majority are in marketing, sales and general management.

Is patient-centric push lip service or reality? Justifiably, there’s a certain amount of cynicism around this issue. Asked if they agreed with the statement, “I believe a focus on patient-centricity is the best route to future profitability,” 80 percent agreed — 30 percent said they strongly agreed. The fact that the majority of the respondents are in sales and marketing underscores that it’s a big talking point, sure. But pharmaceutical companies have seen that to generate greater participation in clinical trials, improving adherence and understanding patients’ needs they need to have more conversations with patients and their advocates and that’s happening.


Christoph Schmidt, the head of global commercial excellence at Actelion Pharmaceuticals, agrees. “Patient centricity as a strategy is also the result of the shift in decision-making power in the more complex and educated stakeholder landscape,” the report notes. But David Laws of Global Partners said there’s a huge disconnect between intent and action.

“I guess pharma’s definition of patient centricity is going to be somewhat different from other stakeholders and this may help explain the perception gap. Pharma is all talk in this area and continues to behave as a product focused industry… Clearly good products are important but on their own they do not produce any income and certainly no profits. Profits come from customers!”

Life science innovation is key to profitability: Asked whether they agreed with the statement “Quality medicines are the best route to future profitability for the company,” 77 percent agreed. The debate over the cost of Gilead’s drug Sovaldi — the first drug to cure Hepatitis C — is a good example of the upside and downside of how innovation is viewed. Everybody seems to want innovation, but if the price is too high, there’s a lot of grousing, particularly from payers and patients. It’s understandable but in cases where it’s a question of costs down the road and more immediate costs, it should be a no-brainer. Still, reimbursement isn’t the only challenge to innovation. More than half of respondents (56 percent) view the success of new medicines as hampered by an outdated regulatory system rather than an ability to innovate.

Pierre Morgon, CMO at Cegedim, said the pharmaceutical industry will need to change to adjust to these cost concerns.

“Going forward, the industry will have to take a different stance on affordability of novel therapies as perceived by the payers and the net consequence for the shareholders will be to admit that the story becomes ‘profitability, but not at any cost,’ almost as an integral component of the company’s CSR policy.”

Healthcare services will be part of pharma strategy: About 73 percent of respondents agreed that they need to become genuine healthcare providers and offer healthcare services. Still, there are a lot of challenges ahead for companies to move “beyond the pill.” Although Pfizer’s Integrated Health division only lasted a couple of years, Christian Isler, the former global head of solution and product development for Pfizer Integrated Health, learned a good few lessons from the experience. It will take years before it’s profitable. He recommends setting up a separate legal entity. It also will require a change in culture — more listening and responding to customer needs.

The competitive landscape will shift in the future: It seems like a weird statement but 59 percent believe that pharma’s greatest competition will be from companies other than current pharmaceutical manufacturers in 20 years. So who will that competition be? Big data analytics companies seem to be the biggest suspect. I tend to see them as complementing pharma, but others view that dynamic differently, as Morgon suggests. ”

When it comes to discovering new medicines, the ‘competition’ will likely remain within the space that we know today, involving academia, start-up companies and larger ones. But there will be other players, specializing in the mining of the huge amount of data allowing to better profile responders to a given treatment. These new players will play a critical role in the generation of insights and the subsequent discussion on the value of the medical interventions.

The life science industry as we know it today will therefore need to learn how to partner with these new players, if it wants to retain a seat at the table of the decision makers about the real life, and not be “cornered” in the world of the laboratory and the randomized clinical trials.”


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A New Era of Value-Driven Pharmaceuticals

A New Era of Value-Driven Pharmaceuticals | Pharma_News |

At the end of March the Amercian College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American Heart Association (AMA) issued a joint statement saying they “will begin to include value assessments when developing guidelines and performance measures (for pharmaceuticals), in recognition of accelerating health care costs and the need for care to be of value to patients.”

You may have heard of value-based medicine, but are we entering a new era of value-based medications or value-driven pharma?

Price transparency is great, but it has be combined with efficacy to get to value (price for the amount of benefit). Medical groups are catching on to how important value assessments are, because if patients can’t afford their medication, they won’t take their medication, and that obviously can turn into poor outcomes. Twenty-seven percent of American patients didn’t fill a prescription last year according to a Kaiser Family Foundation Survey. This trend seems likely to continue as we move toward higher-deductible plans, where those with insurance can have great difficulty affording medications.

Included in the ACC/AMA statement was a quote from Paul Heidenreich, MD, FACC, writing committee co-chair and vice-chair for Quality, Clinical Affairs and Analytics in the Department of Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine.  “There is growing recognition that a more explicit, transparent, and consistent evaluation of health care value is needed…These value assessments will provide a more complete examination of cardiovascular care, helping to generate the best possible outcomes within the context of finite resources.”

Spreading risk and payment to different members of the health care value chain is beginning to make it apparent to more people and organizations that resources are finite. Patients and their physicians are starting to ask which treatments are worth the cost and have best likelihood of adherence.

An outgrowth of the move toward digital health and accountable care is that we’re entering every patient into a potential personal clinical trial with their data followed as a longitudinal study, and we can look much more closely at efficacy and adherence and reasons why it happens and why it doesn’t.

It won’t be long before we start to see comparative effectiveness across a variety of treatments and across a variety of populations. When we can connect outcomes data, interventions and costs all in the same picture we begin to see where the value (price against results) is and where it isn’t.

The opportunity to assess value of treatments is bringing non-traditional players into the value-driven pharma arena. Samsung recently announced that they are becoming a drug company. According to Quartz:

“Electronics giant Samsung recently announced a foray into big pharma. The South Korean company is set to invest over $2 billion into biopharmaceuticals—drugs developed from biological sources (e.g. vaccines or gene therapies) as opposed to traditional chemical cocktails—with a focus on creating cheaper versions of existing therapies.”

The real advantage may be access to patient information via mobile. The Quartz article goes on to say:

“…cheapness won’t be Samsung’s only advantage. The company better known for its smartphones could also take advantage of the fact that the pharma industry has been slow to explore mobile health technology…The biotech industry is expected to generate sales of more than $220 billion in five years, Bloomberg reports, and Samsung expects to be taking a $1.8 billion slice of the pie by that time. The company will start by copying Enbrel (an arthritis therapy by Amgen Inc.) and Remicade (Johnson & Johnson’sautoimmune disease treatment) in the next couple of years.”

Samsung is going after arthritis, which Enbrel and Remicade treat. On the surface, this makes sense. Mobile devices are good at tracking and reporting what arthritis impairs– movement– opening up the opportunity for Samsung to close the loop on the effectiveness of their own drugs using their smart phones, tracking progress and improvement.

Pharma has been slow to explore mobile health and data science and slow to leverage social media and other sources of consumer health data effectively for a variety of reasons — some legal (we aren’t responsible for what  we don’t know) and some historical.

This could be a severe disadvantage when looking to leverage existing therapies. Combing through available data from existing research can provide new and cheaper alternatives and, with relatively easy biosimilar approval, see how they compare.

Industry observers are beginning to see this shift and this opportunity, raising alarm bells for big pharma. Are they listening? Over the past month there’s been a virtual outcry for a business model for Pharma that’s based on value. Ernst & Young released a report (.pdf)calling for “radical collaboration.” Dan Munro at Forbes picked out the key line and bold proclamation from the report:

“Almost every life sciences company, regardless of their product or offering, will soon be expected to help change behaviors and deliver better health outcomes.”

EY hits the nail on the head. The combination of value-based care, digital health, and mobile technologies is inevitably driving toward pharma price and evidence transparency and a much better look at the efficacy of various treatments.

Samsung came late to the smart phone market, then experimented with pricing and models before taking over the top place from Apple. Now focusing on biosimilars, Samsung could be following a similar pattern in pharma, testing to see what combinations will work best, powered by ongoing results in a closed feedback-loop system.

Munro asks the question, “To what extent, and in what ways, should pharma companies move beyond the product?” Samsung may be answering that question.

AthenaHealth’s Jonathan Bush echoed the chorus for a new pharma business model in April to a group of pharma executives saying:

“Take every drug you have and organize it by disease by the number of hospital days that could go away…Find the moments that matter financially and clinically.” And further, “Follow up on the prescriptions that are written and make sure the patients get those drugs but also ‘don’t end up in the hospital…Relentlessly follow up on all conditions for success…”

We wonder if “all conditions for success” might also include the condition of affordability.

Jamie Heywood, CEO of PatientsLikeMe, hinted at a value-based medication future in a Nature Medicine interview recently on their new collaboration with Genentech, saying, “What we need to do is get more value for health care, and value means you have competitive outcomes. And that’s what, in our longest dreams, I think PatientsLikeMe begins to bring to bear.”

Samsung is in a unique position to capitalize on social, mobile and, peer interaction. Munro writes in Forbes about a social network/app, Whisper, that is on a fast-track trajectory because of its anonymous posting. Pharma companies could learn great deal of information on the derailing of adherence to treatment by following these posts. And if they don’t, others will fill the void by both providing and applying data to physicians and consumers as well as pulling in data from consumers.

On the data provider and application side, one Startup Health company seeks to provide cost and value transparency of medications at the point of care and bring the price discussion into the exam room.

RxREVU provides data services via API to use peer-reviewed value-based medication decisions for clinicians and their patients (full disclosure, RxREVU is a client of VivaPhi, Leonard Kish’s agency). Because it’s an API, it could also be deployed in the context of a mobile app at the point of care.

This data has always existed, what’s new is the demand for it and how it’s applied.

On the data intake side, more clinically-focused companies such as GoGoHealth are allowing remote EHR intake, improving access to consumer health data, including social determinants of health, to allow for faster, individualized attention by providers (GoGoHealth, also a StartupHealth company, is mentored by Center of Health Engagement, Nayer’s organization). Part of that is allowing patients to lower barriers to enter the system, getting remote office visits and phone refills. A side product of these kinds of interactions is an understanding of what prevents and what enables patients from continuing on a course of treatment.

As providers and patients assume more of the risk and pay more of the bill, they are seeking solutions that can provide value-based treatment decisions that fit their personalized needs.

The most valuable solutions in a value-driven era will be those that we are able to customize based on information from a wide variety of sources and place the solutions into a contextual format in which patients ultimately have to treat themselves, including financial contexts. Those that stick with the old pharma model, leaving data and consumers-as-patients out of the mix, will wind up with much less valuable medicine.

Cyndy Nayer, the founder and CEO of the Center of Health Engagement, an agency promoting strategic investments in health value for employers, health plans and provider organizations. She has been called the ‘voice of value-based designs’ and selected by EY as a national thought leader in health care innovation.

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Drugmakers And NIH Band Together To Speed Up Research

Drugmakers And NIH Band Together To Speed Up Research | Pharma_News |

The National Institutes of Health is teaming up with major drug companies in a new effort to identify disease-related molecules and biological processes that could lead to future medicines.

The public-private partnership is called AMP, for the "Accelerating Medicines Partnership," and it will focus first on Alzheimer's disease, Type 2 diabetes, and two autoimmune disorders: rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

This is a five-year, $230 million venture. NIH is splitting the cost with industry. In addition to ten companies that include Pfizer, Merck, and Johnson & Johnson, nonprofits like the American Diabetes Association and the Alzheimer's Association have also joined.

They'll work together to identify the most promising biological targets for new therapies. All the scientific data produced by the venture will be shared publicly. "Even if we weren't working with companies we would do this," says Dr. Francis Collins, director of the NIH. He officially unveiled the partnership at a press event in Washington, D.C., and in a blog post. The Wall Street Journalreported on the venture late Monday.

Collins says after new targets are found, companies can then develop drugs that take advantage of them. The goal is to speed new therapies to market, while avoiding the costly and disappointing failures that currently plague the drug-development process.

The project will be managed by the Foundation for the NIH. It's not the first time that pharmaceutical companies have come together under its leadership to form research consortiums.

What sets this venture apart is its comprehensive approach in prioritizing diseases where the science is evolving and patients' needs are pressing, plus the breadth of this many companies and the NIH working together, says Mikael Dolsten, head of research and development at Pfizer.

"I have considerable enthusiasm that this is unique," says Dolsten. "It's complementary, and we should aspire high here."

Hopefully, the collaboration will help illuminate the fundamental basis of what's driving disease, says Lisa Olson, vice president of immunology research at AbbVie Bioresearch Center, Inc., one of the industry partners. Asked if she had seen a partnership similar to this one before, she said simply, "No."

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Digital Health: Will Pharma Follow or Lead? - Forbes

Digital Health: Will Pharma Follow or Lead? - Forbes | Pharma_News |

Time to step up or step out of the way?

The digital health movement is growing rapidly.  Almost everyday we hear of new technology, apps and ideas that bring the promise of improved medical care, health and wellness. From hand-held ultrasound devices to smart phone arrhythmia monitoring, the digital health movement isn’t only about expensive pedometers and the ‘gym elite’ but about key areas in health and wellness that will have a direct impact on medical care.    Pharma–for better or worse–has a seat at this table.

Yet there seems to be a bit of a disconnect between pharma and many of the innovations that are emerging. Perhaps it’s the very nature of these innovations that conflicts with the conservative pharmaceutical industry.  Perhaps it’s still a period of ‘watchful waiting’.  Or even, it could be yesterday’s brand managers, sales reps and administrators who, while caressing the piles of pills that define an industry, are just missing what many define as the next revolution since the personal computer.

Whatever the case, there are many compelling reasons for pharma to embrace digital health.  If not for today, certainly in the not so distant future.

The future of medical practice and pharmaceutical selling

The pressures on the practice of medicine are numerous.  From healthcare reform to the tsunami of clinical information and data, today’s providers are looking for ways to care and to cope.  Technology is an essential part of the solution.  And digital health is a central part of this equation.   The touch points for pharma are numerous and represent areas for engagement and support.  On demand information and analytics will shift the focus from bed side ‘rote memorization’  to “augmented digital expression” where a differential diagnosis and interventions come with the aid of a hand-held computer screen.  Further, the looming role of the electronic medical record will also set into motion a transformation from paper to electrons will catalyze the digital health movement and accelerate adoption. Many of these changes are happening now as a new generation of medical students begin to use their smart phones at bedside as a diagnostic and therapeutic tool with the same zeal as yesterday’s physicians who clung to their stethoscopes as validation of their clinical acumen.

The traditional role of the sales rep must also change.  The consultative nature of the brand detail will shift in parallel with the technology-driven changes in practice.  Pressing the flesh will transform to clinking a link and clinicians will adopt the conventions of today’s consumers and seek information in a controlled on-line setting. But perhaps more importantly, the days of typical case studies and efficacy charts will be replaced with a richer and more compelling presentation that are consistent with what this ‘techno’ generational  will simply expect.   And the experts themselves will change too–the standard practice of expert professorial engagement and peer to peer influence may be enhanced by none other than IBM IBM -1.1%‘s Watson and other ‘electronic’ thought-leaders.

Patients and caregivers will play an important role in the evolution of healthcare and digital health.  The emergence of “citizen scientists” who are empowered by increasingly focused and filtered information will act–alone and with like-minded people–to take greater control of care.  Self-advocacy will change ‘population-based’ treatment guidelines to more personalized care.  And the pandering “ask your doctor” headlines of DTC advertisements will shift to data-based claims that empower the patient and make a much stronger and direct link between the pharmaceutical industry and the true end-user, not the physician.

Maybe it’s digital narcolepsy?

Whatever the cause,  pharma needs to take notice. The cases studies and talking points that drive a traditional brand detail must be rethought and redefined in the context of tomorrow’s clinical reality.  A reality that’s actually happening today.

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FDA Lacks Priorities for Social Media for Pharma

FDA Lacks Priorities for Social Media for Pharma | Pharma_News |

Last December at the FDA-CMS Summit, Douglas C. Throckmorton, MD, Deputy Director for Regulatory Programs, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) said, “This is a transformational time in the healthcare system. Expectations, resources, and challenges all changing,” but he forgot to mention social media for pharma companies.

He pointed out that “today many more treatments are available, but patterns of manufacturing, use and access to information have shifted dramatically. Patients and clinicians want:

New products sooner that are safer and more effectiveDeliver on the promise of basic science discoveriesIncreased involvement in processAccurate and understandable information sooner, especially in post-marketing”

Who could argue with that? And just a few of the key priorities for 2013 would include:

Focus on Patient Participation in Drug Development ProcessPatient Participation in Medical Product DiscussionsPatient-Focused Drug DevelopmentMore systematic and expansive approach to obtaining the patient perspective on disease severity or the unmet medical need in a therapeutic area to benefit the drug review process

With all of this focus on the patient, does regulation or corporate social media policy need to change to allow a real dialogue about medicines? Unlike the 2013 Strategic Priorities established for FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH), CDER’s strategic plan isn’t so… strategic. The plan doesn’t include any guidance for social media. Industry claims that it is working under antiquated laws and a lack of guidance from the agency. Those claims aren’t off-base, particularly when you consider the only social media guidance the FDA has issued so far has been in the form of warning letters about the use of the Facebook “like” button.

A core group of new technologies at companies such as Abbott, Novartis, Actelion, Novo Nordisk, Boehringer Ingelheim, Pfizer, Eli Lilly, ProPharma, Genentech, Roche, GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi-Aventis, Janssen, Takeda, Vertex, Merck, Sharp & Dohme, Watson, Nektar, Wyeth, Schering-Plough and Xanodyne Pharmaceuticals is expected to grow rapidly for communication and education purposes. Industry expects social networking, podcasts and online video to grow in use as critical tools for communicating disease state and product information


I’m on a panel at ePharma Summit in NYC this week, Social Media for Pharma: A Match Made in Heaven or Hell? moderated by Bob Brooks, Executive Vice President, WEGO Health. Michael Weiss, Crohn’s Health Activist, Tiffany Peterson, Lupus Health Activist, Dee Sparacio, Ovarian Cancer Health Activist, and I will be discussing how advocate groups use social media to communicate and educate their group members.

Marketers are seeing the tools as a way to spread information rapidly and educate through podcasts, video and social networks.  They also have found that these mediums prove to hold very effective messaging for those who they communicate to.  For Pharma companies to be truly successful today they need to find a way to communicate successfully internally to their market place of physicians and those selling the drugs, but also externally to communicate the effectiveness of those buying the products. What can Pharma learn about interacting with their community online from patient advocacy groups?

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Top pharma companies in social media: whose opinion are we polling?

Top pharma companies in social media: whose opinion are we polling? | Pharma_News |
An entry in the '100 Steps for Pharma' series Millions of words have been written over recent years across media channels about the relative performance of pharmaceutical companies in social enviro...
Chaturika Jayadewa's insight:

Read the complete article by clicking on the title

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Infographic: Pharma adoption of social media: A prescription for physician engagement | Deloitte Center for Health Solutions

Infographic: Pharma adoption of social media: A prescription for physician engagement | Deloitte Center for Health Solutions | Pharma_News |

There’s no debate that the growth of social media has changed the way that we, as consumers, access and share information. The proliferation of mHealth and other health care social platforms targeted at physicians suggests that this dynamic is no different for our doctors. With health care social media sites now reaching 50% of physicians1 and the user base for third-party physician social platforms growing rapidly, it is clear that the value perceived by physicians regarding interactions in the social space is increasing. Additionally, more than half of physicians polled in a recent survey expressed interest in interacting with pharma for practice-related purposes.2 Given the increased level of physician engagement in social, we are forced to wonder: What opportunities exist for pharma? What should pharma companies do to “win” in this new environment?

Via Olivier Delannoy
Tanja Juslin's curator insight, October 13, 1:05 AM

It seems there is still room for pharma as well specially in clinical and trial data, side effect and AE data, new and future studies and drugs, safety/efficacy, long-term data...

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Better Pharma CMO and CIO Collaboration Will Advance the Digital Revolution

Better Pharma CMO and CIO Collaboration Will Advance the Digital Revolution | Pharma_News |

NEW YORK, Mar 16, 2015 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Chief marketing officers (CMOs) and chief information officers (CIOs) in the pharmaceutical industry may be missing the opportunity to optimize the impact of digital technologies due to a lack of alignment on how they should respond, according to a new Accenture ACN, -0.82% industry report, The Rising Opportunity for CMO and CIO Collaboration in the Pharmaceutical Industry, based on a global Accenture survey.

More than nine out of 10 large pharmaceutical company CIOs (91 percent) who participated in the Accenture Interactive 2014 CMO-CIO Alignment survey of senior marketing and IT executives believe that their companies are in need of greater marketing/IT alignment. By contrast, fewer than two out of three pharmaceutical CMOs (58 percent) agreed with that statement – a discrepancy of 33 percent. This difference in perspective is greater in the pharmaceutical industry than in all other industries surveyed by Accenture at the same time – where the average discrepancy was only 14 percent.

Anne O’Riordan, senior managing director of Accenture’s Life Sciences industry group, said, “The reasons for the difference include traditional structures, cultures and sales representative-led commercial models. The industry faces a period of rapid change marked by digital advances, new expectations from health care professionals and patients, and a dominant outcomes-based reimbursement environment. This requires CMO-CIO collaboration to increase as patients and healthcare providers move more aggressively into the digital world.”

CMOs and CIOs in the pharmaceutical industry have different views of integration and overall investment in the marketing function. According to the report, pharmaceutical CIOs view analytics as the top driver of integration (cited by 52 percent of respondents), but pharmaceutical CMOs rank analytics near the bottom (cited by just 13 percent). Priorities for technology spend were similarly divided:

A majority of pharmaceutical CMOs (54 percent) have spent the most in applying technology on customer experience, while just 14 percent of CIOs cited customer experience as a priority to further market impact and outcomes.Only 17 percent of pharmaceutical CMOs have spent funds to equip a mobile-enabled sales force, compared to 43 percent of pharmaceutical CIOs.Just 13 percent of pharmaceutical CMOs said they have spent the most to invest in multichannel analytics, compared to 43 percent of pharmaceutical CIOs.

The survey also pointed to a lack of a common vision for technology and understanding between CIOs and CMOs in the pharmaceutical industry. For example, two-thirds (67 percent) of the CMO respondents do not view IT as a strategic partner, compared to 50 percent of CMOs surveyed in all industries. Additionally, while nearly 80 percent (77 percent) of pharmaceutical CIOs see the need for greater alignment with CMOs, just 44 percent of pharmaceutical CMOs feel that way.

CIOs and CMOs in the pharmaceutical industry also have differing attitudes on how to make alignment work between the two functions: Nearly four out of 10 pharmaceutical CIOs (38 percent) would favor co-locating IT and marketing staff, an option favored by only 13 percent of pharmaceutical CMOs. At the same time, nearly four out of 10 pharmaceutical CMOs (38 percent) said they would support creating an IT lead within the marketing function, and a marketing lead within IT, a solution that only 19 percent of pharmaceutical CIOs favored.

“We suggest key steps to closing the gap between pharmaceutical CIOs and CMOs, including establishing a vision and set of common objectives for marketing IT that leverage the power of digital and unifying around the customer and patient experience,” added O’Riordan. “They should also integrate customer/patient-focused skills throughout the company, and focus the IT agenda to empower marketing to exploit digital technologies.”

To view more detail on the industries surveyed, click here and go to the Interactive Toolbox.


Accenture’s The Rising Opportunity for CMO and CIO Collaboration in the Pharmaceutical Industry report is based on interviews with 22 CIOs and 24 CMOs from pharmaceutical companies from eight countries (Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, United States) with at least US$5 billion in annual revenues. Respondents were interviewed for the Accenture Interactive 2014 CMO-CIO Alignment survey, which is the fourth in a series of studies aimed at understanding the options, challenges and points of view of senior marketing and IT executives on the impact of digital strategies and capabilities on their business. The survey was in the field in December 2013 and January 2014, and respondents were from 11 countries and 10 industries. More details about the full research and the methodology behind it can be found here.

About Accenture

Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with approximately 319,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. The company generated net revenues of US $30.0 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2014. Its home page is


SOURCE: Accenture

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The Hepatitis C Pricing Debate

The Hepatitis C Pricing Debate | Pharma_News |
The need for new drugs seems higher than ever with population-wide health crises such as Ebola, H1N1, Anthrax and HIV/AIDS. Maintaining an innovative drug development environment seems increasingly critical for our existence. In addition, we are facing healthcare issues related to our lifestyle, which through cardiovascular disease and diabetes alone contribute heavily to escalating healthcare costs.

Drug pricing is often challenged despite the lifesaving nature of many drugs. It is undoubtedly complicated to understand due to industry cost structure, scientific complexity and the “dinner for three” phenomenon. (For those of you who are not familiar with the term “dinner for three,” I will talk more about that in an upcoming blog).

The Next Generation of Hepatitis C Drugs

A new generation of hepatitis C drugs is essentially delivering a cure to patients that so far only had access to poorly tolerated and relatively ineffective drugs. Many patients have postponed treatment with these older drugs, thus creating a worldwide “pool” of patients, anxiously waiting for a better treatment.

The medical and societal value of Sovaldi, and now Harvoni, the first all-oral regimen for many patients, which received F.D.A approval October 10, is uncontested. These drugs are an unparalleled breakthrough in medicine that will dramatically change the lives of millions of people in the U.S. and abroad. (Read my interview with The New York Times on Harvoni winning F.D.A. approval.)

Economically speaking, these drugs offer great value as they could avoid complications from hepatitis C, including liver disease, liver transplants and hepatic cancer. On that basis, the critical U.K. watchdog group, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), has given Sovaldi a positive endorsement. (What is interesting is that the actual cost of Harvoni is lower than an alternative combination of Solvaldi with interferon and ribavirin or with Olysio, which has been prescribed off-label for this use.)

The challenge is that a new drug treatment like Harvoni is so good that demand is temporarily skyrocketing until the pool of hepatitis C infected patients is treated. After that, the treatment is likely to virtually disappear.

A large U.S. problem is that some insurance companies (including the very vocal PBM Express Scripts) will not see the medical savings as they are only responsible for drug costs. Other insurance companies that do cover medical expenses may be concerned about the time horizon of the immediate drug expenses vs. the savings that will occur much later.

The Hepatitis C Market Is Very Competitive

Many similar hepatitis C drugs are in development in a race to market. BMS recently decided to withdraw its drug combination. Vertex announced earlier this year that they are exiting the market, only a few years after their launch of Incivek. Many other companies will likely follow over time. As a society, and under the current circumstances of periodic public health scares, we need to nurture innovative companies that deliver miracle drugs, not chastise them.

We do need to find a solution for the funding challenges that these new treatments are causing in the short run and celebrate the long-term public health improvements that they help us achieve. I would encourage health insurance companies to collaborate with drug companies in finding solutions for patients in need, rather than challenging the value of these miracle drugs.

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Biosimilars Set to Revolutionize Drug Development | Thomson Reuters

Biosimilars Set to Revolutionize Drug Development | Thomson Reuters | Pharma_News |
South Korea emerges among the frontrunners in the race to lead the global biosimilars market
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5 Boring Companies With a Fascinating Social Strategy

5 Boring Companies With a Fascinating Social Strategy | Pharma_News |
Some "boring" companies have proved that even the boring can become fascinating. Here are five examples from various unsexy industries.
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The top 20 pharma app makers

The top 20 pharma app makers | Pharma_News |

The medical app market is dominated by the big players, since they have the resources to create the best apps and the financial muscle to push their products in the market.


The lion’s share of the medical apps market is occupied by established companies with historically strong brands. Bayer leads the pack with 11.2% market share, followed closely by Merck, Novartis, Pfizer, and Boehringer Ingelheim

Via Andrew Spong
Paulo Machado's curator insight, July 9, 2014 11:14 AM

How about a measure of health impact of these apps?  As BioPharma(& other corps) move into health apps shouldn't they be measuring Benefits/Risks like is done with Medicine?

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Pharma, digital and patients: a healthy concoction? | Pharmafile

Pharma, digital and patients: a healthy concoction? | Pharmafile | Pharma_News |

A young woman sits stunned in an oncologist’s office, unsure of where to look or how to react to the terrible news. The doctor is telling her that she has cancer – meaning the woman is no longer the same person she was when she walked into the office, as for now she has become a ‘patient’.

And as a patient, she will have to make all sorts of life-changing – and possibly life-saving – decisions in the coming weeks and months. The news is a blow, but the doctor has many other people to see, and only has time to give a brief overview of her diagnosis and the basics about what to expect. 

Our typical patient’s life has now changed irrevocably, but she feels unequipped to deal with whatever may lay ahead. Twenty years’ ago, this scenario would have been left right there. The patient would have been expected to cope largely on her own, occasionally being told by doctors and consultants what procedures she would have and what drugs she would take.  

But there has been a quiet revolution in recent years – a shift which is restructuring healthcare across the world. This revolution has come from digital. There is always a danger of over-romanticising digital. Etymologically the word comes from the Latin digitus, meaning fingers or toes – thus to be ‘digital’ simply means to use one’s digits when performing an action. 

But of course it now means so much more than that. ‘Digital’ now incorporates much deeper connotations of engagement, networking and commercial opportunity. Today, our patient can face her disease in new ways: by writing blogs about her progress for instance, or engaging with an entire community of patients going through similar treatments. This can help her to predict what could happen further down the road, or even help her through the difficult first few weeks following diagnosis.

She can also do some research online to find out what treatments are available beyond what her doctors are advising, giving her the confidence to seek out different options, or even find new clinical trials that could benefit her. The young woman has gone beyond being a patient and become an ‘ePatient’ – an evolution of sorts, and increasingly the norm as people further their engagement with online information.

The rise of the ePatient

For pharma, this represents a major new opportunity to not only promote new medicines via social media and disease awareness campaigns, but also to come out of the shadows, to become more transparent and – for the first time – engage with patients on a one-to-one basis.

Digital is now becoming the tool of choice for many pharma marketers, where the line between traditional marketing and digital marketing is so blurred, the two have essentially amalgamated. Increasingly, if you want to deliver a message – especially to patients – you have to go online.

But the pharma industry as a whole has not embraced any form of digital revolution as readily as other sectors. There are many reasons for this, with legal restrictions being chief among them, especially in the European Union, where rules forbid pharma from discussing its products directly with the public. This limits just how much – and what – it can say to patients. 

But whilst the industry may not have taken on digital wholeheartedly, some individual firms, and individuals within those firms, have taken up the challenge of finding a way through the legal quagmire. At the beginning of the year, those pharma companies willing to embrace digital came to the fore through an IMS Institute poll of the best pharma firms in social media. 

Johnson & Johnson, which also has a large consumer unit, came top by some margin according to the metrics of IMS, followed by a close cluster of other companies: GSK, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer, Novartis and Boehringer, respectively.

You would expect most of these at the top given their large budgets and digital willingness – although Boehringer, which almost defines itself via its social media presence, may feel a little disappointed to be sixth on the list. 

But whilst lauding the success of the top 10 firms, the IMS Institute was quick to caution that pharma may not be using these new media platforms to the best of their ability, and will need to invest more to engage with younger, digital-savvy consumers.

And this is a problem. The young cancer patient can benefit from digital, but a fundamental demographic difficulty remains: the majority of people who require prescription medicines are over 50 – with many larger groups in their 70s, 80s and 90s. Patients in these age brackets use social media far less than their younger peers and are therefore largely ignored by pharma’s foray into social media.

However, recent reports suggest the tide may be slowly turning. Specifically, an annual survey by a UK governmental communications group says that the emergence of tablet computers is behind a swift rise in people aged 65 and over using the internet. 

Drawn up by the UK government’s Office of Communication (Ofcom), this report indicates that, in the past 12 months, the percentage of older people going online rose by more than a quarter to 42%, which could fuel more interest in health-based media. Despite this increase, however, the oldest group of people still spend the least amount of time online of any adult age group. 

According to Ofcom’s report, the over-65s spend nine hours and 12 minutes online every week on average. By contrast, those aged between 16 and 24 devote about 24 hours each week to online activities. In healthcare terms, this means that younger, chronic patients may well be the greater beneficiaries of digital campaigns.

The same study found that half of the apps people download are redundant because they are used so infrequently. On average, the survey says, smartphone users have 23 apps installed – but make regular use of only 10.

This is a major problem for developers, especially pharma and health app creators, who require regulator engagement with users for their programmes to work successfully. Finding a way to engage with older patients – and holding the attention of the younger ones – remains a key challenge for pharma if it wants to nurture any digital revolution.

Pharma’s foray into digital

But just what has the industry done to engage with the ePatient? Pharma has traditionally been publicity-shy, hoping instead for its products to be better known than its producers. As mentioned before, there are good reasons for this as they cannot be seen to promote prescription drugs on these platforms, and have to be very careful not to cross any legal parameters when talking to users. 

But this has not stopped the industry using social media, notably Twitter and Facebook, in order to (legally) engage the general public. So how do pharma companies use these new channels? Many use Twitter to publish links to press releases, which are primarily of use for journalists.

Some tweet about events they are running/sponsoring. Others attempt to increase their public reputation by announcing plans to increase access to medicines abroad, or other seemingly philanthropic gestures.  

There appears to be less engagement on Twitter – visibly less anyway, as interactions and direct messages cannot always be seen. Most companies do enjoy a fairly large following, however. GSK’s main Twitter account has nearly 50,000 followers, Boehringer has 32,000, Sanofi 40,000, and top dog Pfizer is closing in on the 100,000 mark. (This seems to reflect global size: Pfizer is the world’s biggest pharma firm by revenue, so it’s no surprise it has the most followers.)

The majority of these firms follow very few people in return – typically just a few thousand or even a few hundred. These are predominately news services and other medical charities and groups. But pharma’s figures are fairly high compared to other industries – BP Oil, for example, has fewer than 2,000 followers, whilst Barclays Bank has only 22,000. This is more impressive given that Sanofi, Boehringer and others are not the household names that BP and Barclays are. 

But pharma’s use of Twitter has not always been positive. The first reported case of a tweet landing a company in hot water came in 2011 when Bayer was reprimanded by the PMCPA, which polices the ABPI’s Code of Practice in the UK, after its UK Twitter account promoted a prescription-only drug to the public when it sent two product-related tweets.

These tweets concerned the company’s erectile dysfunction treatment Levitra and its multiple sclerosis spasticity drug Sativex, both of which were published in a way that made them seem promotional. Bayer was hit with a major reprimand from the PMCPA, and fined thousands of pounds.

And last year a European NASDAQ disciplinary committee found virology specialist Medivir guilty of breaching its rules, after data from a clinical trial were posted on Twitter before their formal release. This case, however, was a little more complicated as it was not Medivir who sent the tweet, but rather a participant who took a picture with his smartphone at an event the firm was hosting.

The picture was then published on social media hours before the data was officially made available to the public, thus breaking NASDAQ rules. Much was made of these cases in the press – especially Bayer’s tangle with the PMCPA– but they certainly weren’t earth-shattering enough to warrant rejecting digital in all of its forms.

In Bayer’s case, the tweets were sent mistakenly with perhaps a slight misunderstanding of the lines between information and promotion. And Medivir’s example was again a mistake, rather than intentional – there should have been a direct conversation with attendees that data were embargoed. In reality, neither firm was looking to use these media to advertise.


A bigger problem has stemmed from Facebook, after the social media platform decided in 2011 that firms running corporate profiles can no longer simply delete comments they didn’t like. This means that companies can only retroactively delete comments if they break Facebook’s terms, or are illegal.

Janssen’s award-winning Psoriasis 360 Facebook offering was quick to fall foul of these new rules, and in 2012 the firm said it was ‘forced’ to remove the page – which also had Twitter and YouTube counterparts – after an increasing amount of ‘troublesome comments’ were posted.

Janssen said at the time: “Whenever a post on this page [Psoriasis 360] mentions a specific drug by name, or talks about the efficacy of a particular treatment (or its side effects), we have to ask for it to be changed, or pull it.” 

The J&J pharmaceuticals subsidiary went on to say that this was ‘stifling worthwhile discussions’, and constantly removing these posts simply become too onerous for the firm. Psoriasis 360 was seen as one of the shining beacons of what pharma could do with digital, but its removal from Facebook was worrying given that the firm had done nothing wrong – it simply couldn’t keep up with the public’s comments. 

This is the reality of becoming more open on the internet – a company that was once immune to direct public criticism can instantly become the target of ‘trolls’, rather than receive helpful feedback from people who are genuinely upset or concerned about a firm or its products.

Pharma may well have to develop a thicker skin and recruit more staff who are used to monitoring web comments. The travails here are certainly ones that pharma must be aware of, but if it wants to succeed in a brave new world risks will have to be taken – and understanding risk is, after all, what the industry is all about.

ROI questions

An argument remains that too much time and effort is being spent on digital communications, when the primary job of pharma should be to concentrate on its research and development. And a large question mark hangs over just what the return on investment (ROI) is for firms who want to grow their presence on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. 

Digital is a major buzzword and becoming all-encompassing at many pharma conferences. This was no more evident than at the recent eyeforpharma offering in Barcelona, where much emphasis was put on the use of digital to aid the industry’s future.

But this focus was at one point sharply put into perspective by a single slide, that showed only 6% of pharma’s entire marketing budget is spent on digital marketing. The question is: just how measureable is this 6% investment? Have more drugs been sold as a result, and is this even the point for pharma’s foray into digital? Can engagement be successfully measured and pitted against the cost of creating a campaign? 

These questions are not benign and the lack of answers is what prevents many pharma firms from fully embracing digital. In an interview with Pharmafocus in 2012, during the launch of Syrum – Boehringer Ingelheim’s Facebook game designed to promote disease awareness campaigns – its creator John Pugh dismissed enquiries about ROI, saying it ‘wasn’t relevant’ to ask that sort of question in relation to a digital operation. 

ROI is a key component of digital which is not discussed readily, but remains important to chief financial officers and to the healthcare payers who are ultimately funding pharma. The marketing budget for digital may certainly be small, but it still represents billions of dollars across the industry – and a good prediction of ROI is surely a necessary part of any business plan.

Embracing digital for the right reasons

Ultimately, as is so often the case with pharma, the issue boils down to trust: patients and lawmakers want to know that pharma’s use of digital media – and indeed its interaction with patients – is based on sharing information openly and helping to improve the experience of having a condition, whilst also aiming to deliver better medicines. 

It should not be, as some fear, an attempt at ‘back door’ direct-to-consumer advertising or in any way promotional. There is an opportunity here for pharma and medical communication firms to help shape the future of healthcare and chart the course of the ePatient. 

Our young cancer patient has now been given a louder voice and a community to engage with – and all at the touch of a button. The patients’ needs must remain the top priority for pharma and doctors, if the promise of digital is to be fully realised

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Samsung, the pharma company: biopharm investments; first biosimilars in 2016

Samsung, the pharma company: biopharm investments; first biosimilars in 2016 | Pharma_News |

South Korea’s biggest company is investing at least $2 billion in biopharmaceuticals, including the growing segment of biosimilars, which are cheaper versions of brand-name biotechnology drugs that have lost patent protection.


Samsung, with $327 billion annual revenue, aims to become a major force in biotechnology, an industry expected to generate sales of more than $220 billion in five years. With the electronics market reaching saturation, billionaire chairman Lee Kun Hee has been investing in new areas that might shore up growth for the family-controlled company.


Samsung plans to sell its first biosimilar version of Amgen Inc. (AMGN)’s arthritis therapy Enbrel in 2016 in Europe and a version of Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)’s Remicade treatment for autoimmune diseases in 2017, according to Ko. A separate unit called Samsung Biologics Co. has contracts to manufacture biologic medicines for branded pharmaceutica

Via Andrew Spong
Andrew Spong's curator insight, May 12, 2014 4:18 AM

For me, this is the biggest health story of the year so far.


With Samsung's dominance in the mobile market and its focus on integrating health into its products, there can be little doubt that the company has the potential to make a huge impression on the future of healthcare.

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Pfizer begins using ‘digital’ reps

Pfizer begins using ‘digital’ reps | Pharma_News |

Pfizer has begun using digital drug representatives to market medicines, leaving the decision as to whether they want to see them in doctors’ hands.

It’s an unusual move that creates more of an indirect form of marketing. The firm’s new service it calls ‘Pfizerline’ has its own website with a blurb saying: “Ask Pfizer............, who can give you promotional product information at a time convenient to you. It’s simple. It’s flexible. It’s convenient. Calls can be arranged to suit your busy practice schedule.”


The service offers new ways for primary care doctors to talk to reps and also offers links to product information about branded medicines available in the UK.


There is in addition the ability to book an online meeting room that Pfizer says provides a “rich multi-media interaction where you can see our trained UK-based digital representative, as well as the product presentation they are discussing with you”.


In a nutshell, it means UK doctors can speak to reps via a Skype-like device about new products from Pfizer. Doctors can book online via a booking form and a ‘digital rep’ will arrange a time to talk on the phone, or video link at


The process, dubbed ‘digital detailing’, is designed around promotional product discussions and is within the ABPI rules.

Via Andrew Spong
Sven Awege's comment, October 6, 2013 6:24 PM
Is this really new? I thought they were doing this many years ago - just new way to describe it?
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Strategy: Why Big Pharmas Do What They Do -- And How Silicon Valley Might Help Them Think Differently - Forbes

Strategy: Why Big Pharmas Do What They Do -- And How Silicon Valley Might Help Them Think Differently - Forbes | Pharma_News |

AstraZeneca’s revitalization strategy, announced this week, follows the same well-worn playbook used by so many in the industry, employing approaches vividly familiar from my consulting days: cut headcount, externalize R&D, focus on select therapeutic areas, push biologics, and explore an interesting flyer (in this case, technology from Moderna, a Cambridge, MA-based company developing novel mRNA therapeutics — see Luke Timmerman’s recent Xconomy post).


While not offering profound solutions, these restructuring activities, through cost cutting and distraction, are likely to buy AZ at least a little bit of breathing room from the increasingly critical analysts that have massed at the company’s gates.


I’d like to review what may be driving these changes in the industry, and conclude with several alternative strategies big pharma might consider.

 Read the full article at Forbes by clicking the title

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Fixing a Broken Drug Business by Spreading the Wealth,

Fixing a Broken Drug Business by Spreading the Wealth, | Pharma_News |
Photo: Bill David Brooks / Flickr You might plausibly argue that ice cream parlors and bobby socks reached a peak back when Elvis was still the king, b
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