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As patients continue to be at the forefront of healthcare, the pharmaceutical industry is making strides toward understanding their unique needs through patient journey mapping. However, with the prevalence of unmet medical needs – is this approach truly enough?
In 2012, global pharmaceutical research and expenditure totaled 127 billion US dollars which reached 238 billion US dollars in 20211. This hike of almost 174% validates that pharmaceutical companies are putting notable efforts into developing new treatments and finding cures for unmet medical needs – nevertheless, the white space is still there. Lack of adequate and effective treatment options, poor delivery mechanisms, and scientific bottlenecks are just a few of the complexities that need to be eliminated. However, without examining the underlying cause of these unmet medical needs, the pharma industry is not only leaving the white space blank but is consequently inflating drug prices and impacting the quality of life.
It has been estimated that the price tag for developing a new treatment can range from less than $1 billion to more than $2 billion2, including capital expenses and spending on drugs that fail to reach the market. This fact alone explains why the industry faces an uphill battle in meeting the unmet patients’ needs. Unfortunately, high prices don’t always guarantee value or greater access, but lowering prices isn’t necessarily an option either, as it’s critical to recouping R&D costs and securing future investments.
Navigating the landscape of unmet medical needs across various medical areas can be challenging due to conflicting opinions among healthcare providers. This lack of consensus can lead to investing resources in developing drugs that may not address the right critical health issues. Fragmented research efforts further impede the drug development process, and consequently, companies fail to put the right efforts in the right place to meet the right unmet needs.
The rush to launch products quickly often causes pharma companies to struggle with managing drugs effectively throughout their lifecycle, leading to poor market penetration and limited patient access. This problem is compounded when selling models don’t align with patient needs, as it can result in limited uptake and usage of drugs or discouraging investment in research and development for important medical needs because they may not see a viable market.
To meet the pressing healthcare needs of today, pharma companies should take a strategic approach to research and development. Instead of solely focusing on long-term goals, it’s important to prioritize short-term efficacy, quality, and safety. This can be achieved through adaptive clinical trial designs, which allow for modifications based on accumulating data and reduce the time and cost of drug development, further leading to better healthcare solutions.
By branching out beyond their in-house efforts, pharmaceutical companies can tap into a wealth of resources to drive innovation. Partnering with universities provides access to scientific expertise, government support can help navigate complex regulations, and collaborating with payers and other stakeholders yields intelligent data, ultimately leading to more informed decisions. Collaboration allows companies to share risks and expertise, develop new drugs, and achieve a balance between innovation and affordability for patients.
Cutting-edge real-world evidence (RWE) analytics is a game changer for the healthcare industry. By integrating predictive models, probabilistic causal models, and unsupervised algorithms, companies can access crucial insights about patient demographics, behaviors, and the progression of diseases. With the ability to predict patient responses and identify potential risks, pharmaceutical companies can streamline their R&D efforts and bring life-changing treatments to market faster than ever before.
In a bid to increase treatment efficacy while reducing costs, the industry must turn to innovative pricing models. Health outcomes-based contracts incentivize pharmaceutical companies to develop efficient treatments by paying only if predetermined outcomes are met. Similarly, the subscription model rewards the steady development of long-lasting treatments by providing a reliable revenue stream. By adopting these game-changing models, pharma can meet the unmet needs of patients while reforming drug pricing.
The pharmaceutical industry can access valuable insights into patient preferences by involving patients and physicians early in the decision-making process, further developing treatments that meet their needs. With a focus on patient-centricity, the industry can strengthen patient adherence to drug regimens, resulting in improved health outcomes. This approach promotes patient empowerment and drives the development of new and effective treatments.
Bridging the ever-increasing unmet healthcare needs is a critical and complicated mission for pharmaceutical companies. As expectations continue to rise, the industry needs to take a giant leap beyond traditional boundaries. Luckily, with the right partner, it is possible to identify the uncharted territory that patients need most.