Digitizing Pharmaceuticals

Ashok Upadhyay, IT Sr. Director, Otsuka Pharmaceutical Development & Commercialization, Inc. (U.S.)
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Ashok Upadhyay, IT Sr. Director, Otsuka Pharmaceutical Development & Commercialization, Inc. (U.S.)

In the world of omnipresent social media and smart user-centric devices, digital technologies continue to redefine newer and better ways for people to interact with one another. Ironically the compliance-led pharma and life sciences industries have not always reacted to adapt and adopt opportunities presented by the creative and inventive union of the digital technologies (social media, mobility, big data, advanced analytics, cloud computing, and IOTs). Amidst the fierce competition in the race to discover, develop, and market novel therapies that unequivocally demonstrate improved patient outcomes, pharma and biotech CIOs must make it a priority for their enterprise IT strategies to focus on digital accelerations as one of the many ways to drive rapid business growth.

The uptake of cloud computing and cloud-based solutions across all pharmaceutical domains has opened up a multitude of possibilities. A few examples include rapid extraction of real-time multi-center clinical study data for scientific and operational analytics, population health management, heath economics and outcomes research, directly engaging with patients through the emergence of social platforms, accelerated use of digital channels for enhanced stakeholder engagement, end-to-end product tracking and real-time monitoring of consumption patterns for enriched inventory management—all of these with unmatched scalability, reliability, and data security at a fraction of the cost compared to traditional non-cloud based solutions.

  The uptake of cloud computing and cloud-based solutions across all pharmaceutical domains has opened up a multitude of possibilities 

In late 2015, U.S. FDA accepted the first digital medicine NDA for a potential product that combines an approved medicine for treating certain mental illnesses with an ingestible sensor in a single tablet to digitally record ingestion and, with patient consent, share information with their healthcare professionals and caregivers— which brings significant opportunity to demonstrate the potential of digital medicines to provide an objective measure of medication adherence and physiologic response. This is truly one of the examples of how smart devices in combination with therapeutics may have the potential to impact healthcare. Medication adherence continues to be a huge problem in an era when smart technologies may provide a solution. If I had to bet on the next wave of transformational digital therapeutics, the type of devices with the ability to connect and talk to each other without needing any cloud or server to exchange information among each other (often referred to as “Internet of Things” or IoT) would win my vote.

Both life sciences and healthcare companies have a big opportunity to change the delivery of health and wellness services through the intelligent use of such devices. Imagine a world of possibilities where a number of such sensors and devices interact with each other in a cluster of cohorts generating signals and actions to influence and create human or machine interventions across the healthcare ecosystem. The Big Data strategies are then bound to become the core competitive differentiators for pharma and biotech companies in managing such data explosion to help data scientists ask the right questions. In the process of doing so they will need to revisit the entire IT enterprise—not just by re-evaluating their current platform investment and technical approaches, but more broadly continuing to evolve their policies, organization structures, governance models and most importantly how they engage with internal and external stakeholders, researchers, patients, and customers. They will also need to develop new data strategies that reflect the shift in how data is shared and analyzed, as well as a plan to manage all types of data that affect product sales, pricing, reimbursement and other measures—all while simultaneously focusing more time, energy and investment in digitizing assets to greatly impact the ultimate outcome— disease prevention and improvement of health and wellness around the world.

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