Last week, I attended the BIO-Europe 2011 conference in Milan. The event is one of the largest partnering events in the bio-pharmaceutical industry. Thousands of one-to-one meetings are held over the course of three days, mostly between pharma and biotech firms.
I participated on the panel “Breaking Ground in Personalized Medicine: What Do the Recent Deals Mean for Drug Development?“, along with Alain Huriez, TcLand Expression; Gabriela Lavezzari, Medco Research Institute; Richard Watts, QIAGEN; and Matthias Will from Novartis.
On the video, I encourage you to fast forward to 49:11. This is the point when I ask Gabriella from Medco the question that should have all pharma CEOs up at night.
Me: Using Medco’s IT system [that manages 65 million patients], when a physician writes a scrip you can completely circumvent any pharma sales force that exists to drive a therapy in a particular direction.
Gabriella: Yes, that is correct.
This admission is a significant shot across the bow of the drug development industry. Profound changes are coming fast, and I am not certain that any of the industry’s traditional players – pharma, regulators and payers – have a strategy to compete and win in this new healthcare marketplace.
Based on what I experienced last week, business in the drug development industry is still being conducted in the rear view mirror. Because of this, there will likely be significant casualties.
A future success plan for drug developers begins with asking the right questions. Here are three to start out with:
1. Will the use of companion diagnostics further increase or decrease the adoption of pharma products?
2. Can pharma re-position its drugs – particularly those drugs whose cost-effectiveness can be enhanced by the use of a diagnostic, medical device, or eHealth application.
3. Where are the opportunities in product development? Are there still significant unmet needs (e.g., orphan indications) given the current therapies on the market?
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