A future model for pharmaceutical companies


There are two core areas that will define the future model of healthcare. The first is the core competencies of pharmaceutical companies, in other words, what they are good at. The second is the external drivers of change; the best way to think of these is as the boulders that are rolling down the mountain. You can't stop them but you can anticipate them and either minimise their impact or use them to your advantage.

So what are pharmaceutical companies good at? First, let's recognise they are not good at discovering innovative new molecules to meet human needs. You may want to argue this one but look at the current pipelines of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies, particularly if you take out the molecules they have in licensed.

Where pharmaceutical companies are good is in shaping late stage clinical trial programmes to meet regulatory requirements and get molecules to market. Then in commercialising those molecules and realising the patented lifetime value of them. They have the resources and infrastructure globally to effectively achieve these goals.

The 4 main factors driving the world forward are:

  1. accelerating technological integration;
  2. the continued rise of the emerging markets of South America, India and, of course, China;
  3. the aging demographics globally; and
  4. an ever increasing demand on limited resources.

This drives a two tier world of high growth, low individual income countries and low growth, high income countries. What is interesting is that both tiers have a common unifying need for more cost effective healthcare.

The future model for pharmaceutical companies can be visualised as a continuum; at one end of which is the company that is about delivery of molecules to market, which generates revenue through profits on providing solutions to ill people. At the other end is the integrated industry that is responsible for maintaining the lifetime health of individuals; who works with healthcare providers and professionals, effectively utilises healthcare data to provide greater efficiencies, and generates revenue from multiple sources not just from branded molecules. One end is product centric and the other is outcomes centric.  Now I ask you which of these industries is easy to dislike and demonise and which is an industry that you feel compelled to trust and see as a partner?


We all recognise one end of that continuum, it is approximately where we are now. If we stay there, it is a world where regulatory hurdles will always get higher and legal constraints will get stricter, while profits are eroded. If you want to be in that world, all we will say is "Good luck".

What does that integrated world look like? It is a world where pharmaceutical companies utilise their skills at getting molecules to market and commercialising them, where the developing of new solutions is done by smaller more innovative research organisations, who then partner with pharmaceutical companies to bring them to market.

In this world pharmaceutical companies facilitate capture of real time patient data from in home and mobile monitoring systems and they use this to predict and proactively manage the health of patients.

Regulatory organisations have reduced time to market by lowering hurdles because of the ability to continuously monitor in market and for the benefits of real time management to increase the efficiency of healthcare.

Patients can purchase service packages to support their treatment regimens based on their personal preferences creating new revenue streams. They also have greater recognition of and affinity for pharmaceutical corporate brands, as they receive relevant feedback on their health, and advice and support on who to best manage their conditions.

The wealth of anonymised data generated in this new world has allowed pharmaceutical companies to shape their infrastructure to the needs of populations and to predict the levels of investment needed for the future while giving them unprecedented insight and understanding into the needs of its key stakeholders, patients, healthcare professionals and payers. This wealth of data has become a revenue stream in its own right.

What this means in terms of communications, branding and visual implementation is that holistic integrated communications that can be activated in real time, will be key to communicating with both healthcare professionals and patients. The rise of social media  and the utilisation of video as a learning medium, will mean that communications need to be more flexible and responsive, to anticipate the communications needs of stakeholders. This will also mean that pharmaceutical companies will need to rethink their approval processes to meet these needs. In the future their will not be the luxury of lengthy multiple person approval processes.

Multiple channels will be critical in the future as fragmentation of consumption of media continues and people expect to be able to get their information in a variety of formats on many different platforms.

With the limited attention time that any single communication will have, visual identity and recognition of brand will be key to gaining and maintaining attention. Already an individual decides within a third of a second if they will continue to engage with material. The continual increase of information will be mean that people will get ever more sophisticated in screening out unwanted communications.

I have seen initiatives from Microsoft, Google and IBM on the future of healthcare. You can spot the market leaders of tomorrow in an industry by those who are envisioning and shaping that future today. Where are the voices of global pharmaceutical companies in that future?

One finally word, there are a lot of people will think "that is impossible we can't do that" and will then quote chapter and verse on various regulatory and legal frameworks. Our response would be this, "if you are a multi-billion dollar, global organisation words like "can't" and "impossible" shouldn't be in your dictionary".


By Michael White