When I first heard the term “Pharma 3.0” I thought that it was the latest in the trend to put “x.0” (where x = 2, or higher) after everything. I was delighted to find out that it wasn’t, and there is a (reasonably) well-defined “Pharma 1.0, and 2.0”.
To get to “Pharma 3.0”, we need to detour past Pharma 1.0, and 2.0.
To bring a pharmaceutical drug to market is not something for the faint-hearted. There are strict regulations that need to be complied with. The length of time taken to bring a drug to a point where it can be sold can be up to eight and a half years, or longer. And the cost can add up to more than US$800 million.
As a result, pharmaceutical companies rely on a “blockbuster” drug. Which is one that alleviates, or cures, specific problems, and for which there is a high demand.
This is what defines “Pharma 1.0” - the age of the “Blockbuster”.
However, Pharma companies also realized that there is more than just having a “really great product”. “Pharma 2.0” is a period where there was a recalibration to do business leaner, nimbler and more focused on emerging realities. Effectively, the focus was on redefining the business model.
There are no precise dates when the next “Pharma x.0” period is entered, but “Pharma 3.0” has started to emerge.
Pharma 3.0 can be described loosely as “Pharma + Web 2.0”.
That is, “social media” plays a big role. The advent of social media has brought a voice to the end consumer. With a greater wealth of knowledge at their hands, the patient has become more knowledgeable about their ailments, and more critical of the medicines they are taking. Insurance companies and governments are also now starting to look for real value in the medicines that they are paying for, rather than just relying on the claims of the pharmaceutical company.
As a result, the pharmaceutical company has had to redefine who the “customer is”. No longer is the customer the Medical Doctor. Now more focus is put on delivering real value to the patient.
And this is where social media, and related technologies, are coming into play. Companies are starting to identify ways that they can not only “talk to the customer”, but to also “listen”. Examples include smartphone apps that provide information on the medication that a patient is taking, allowing them to ask questions directly to the pharma company, or to get in touch with others using the medication; apps that give patients easy ways to record treatments and keep track of the symptoms they experience; through to devices that measure the blood glucose levels of a patient, and then transmit them to a mobile device where the data can be stored, and shared with a physician. (InPharm maintain a great list of apps currently available. Click here to see it). Initiatives include, also, more transparency, and information to both the patient and the doctor.
“Pharma 3.0” is about adding value by empowering the patient. And it’s something that the pharma companies are all involved with (in one way, or another). The newer, more dynamic pharma companies that are appearing in places such as Asia, and India, are able to put into place the business partnerships and innovation required to fully take advantage of Pharma 3.0. The tradition Big Pharma companies, however, are burdened with an “entrenched” value network that needs to be changed. This is happening.
It is likely that, in the current year, there will be quite some activity in this area. I’ll be watching with interest.