Kantar Health Blog

Time for change

by Mark Sales | Sep 8, 2011
Mark Sales

As I sit here on the train from Manchester to London in the UK, I am propelled at over 100mph between two cities deeply affected by unprecedented riots and looting a few months ago. Two cities with very different but deep rooted cultures. Two cities that were taken by surprise by the vandalism and destruction their youth inflicted on them.

What has this got to do with pharma? On the face of it, nothing at all, but the debate it sparked in the media  made me think more deeply about the parallels with the situation in our industry. I also reflected back to a  recent high level WPP healthcare workshop that highlighted that the ‘keep calm and carry on attitude’ we are so proud of in the UK and that came out during the riots, is no longer enough to prevent a downward spiral in the worldwide life sciences marketplace

 As brands come to the end of their patent life, we hear about the future being based on value-based pricing, reduced budgets for medicine, healthcare reform and the many things which threaten pharma industry profit margins.  This may well be our future if we continue to base our commercial model on selling more and higher priced therapeutics.  Just as it is believed that the UK government and authorities could have predicted and prevented the riots, can the pharma industry not secure a more secure future by focusing on improving health and well -being through education and support rather than treatment through pills, injections and infusions?  Why not focus our business acumen on changing our contract with society?  When, for example, will government contract out to the private sector reducing the number of people who smoke in exchange for a percentage of the health savings which will come with fewer people to treat with expensive drugs?  Is there a role for the pharma industry in disease management? It has already been tried but  that attempt failed.  Were some simply ahead of their time?   There has been a focus on managing symptoms, using pills, injections, infusions and so on.  That has been good for many, but when are we really going to focus on prevention through market mechanisms and what role can or should our industry play?

If we don’t change, there are companies that are a lot younger, more progressive and quite capable of taking over. As Google and Microsoft turn their focus to healthcare just imagine what they might do without the cost of a drug R&D facility, or a factory to weigh them down. They may well take over but not like the looters of recent riots - they just might be faster and more relevant than traditional players in our industry.

We reacted to the riots in UK by blaming everything from parents to closing of youth clubs but I wonder if it was a phase we needed to go through to move up to the next level in assessing what ails us?  Similarly, the disruption our industry has been going through for the last few years has been painful.  If we learn from our mistakes and change for the better, as we have done in the UK post-riots, we may well be able to harvest for our industry and the betterment of society the potential opportunities that change can bring.

Let me know what your view is on change in our industry.

Also watch out for my next blog  which will feature highlights of our annual Stakeholder Effectiveness survey, conducted with US/European physicians and Payers in the UK, and broadcast in the last weeks with PharmaVoice via a webinar. We looked at how GPs/PCPs rate 17 pharma companies on their relationships and services and what their digital habits are. We also spoke to Payers  in the UK, a country that has gone through radical change, to understand what they see as a win-win strategy for  pharma and themselves.  

Watch this space!

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