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Perspective: How Digital Transformation is impacting the Pharma Industry

digital transformation

Discovery of a novel drug is an arduous and lengthy process, just 1 in 10 drugs make it to the market, the median cost to introduce a new drug to market is $1.7 billion and it takes decades for a new medicine to complete the journey from initial discovery to the marketplace, with clinical trials alone taking six to seven years on average.

The growing clamor for novel drugs to reach the needy is dramatically espoused by the pandemic. With the regulatory authorities warming up to infinite possibilities that digital technologies can enable accelerating drug discovery, investments in digital transformation are catapulting.

Today, 77 % of global pharma CEOs are espousing digital transformation for alacrity in drug discovery and accelerating drug delivery. Technology that was peripheral to a pharma company’s business vision is rapidly becoming pivotal.

Pharma 4.0  is digitalization at every point along the pharma value chain that can help bolster pharma companies to get drugs from the lab to the patient more swiftly by embracing digital technologies and re-imagining status quo.

Let’s see how digital enablement can transform pharma industry and is helping them achieve their business goals and develop a competitive advantage.

Faster Drug Discovery with New age Digital technologies

One of the greatest challenges of drug discoveries is finding the right drug for an ailment without serious side effects for the recipient.

With the quantum leap in computational powers and emergence of ground-breaking digital technologies transformational research is accelerating the drug discovery process.

Digital versions of potential molecules that can accelerate drug discoveries are created by stimulating models in the R & D labs  using AI/ML technologies and  powered by predictive analysis. Data scientists are using AI to help deduce the best way to make a molecule in the shortest time.

With such advancements rapidly gaining merit , a leading consulting firm opines, that it should be possible to bring medicines to the market 500 days faster in the near future, thereby creating a competitive edge for a pharmaceutical company.

Clinical Trails – Data is the New Drug

Nine out of 10 clinical trials worldwide can’t recruit enough candidates thereby indefinitely stretching a launch of a drug or even killing a drug that could be a potential life saver or a blockbuster. Pharma industry is rapidly aggrandizing innovative digital enablement initiatives to overcome this predicament.

Re-Imagining Data – Advent of External Arm

Today, leveraging data adroitly by combining emerging technologies with established ones, for instance bringing together AI and Big data, scientist are plumbing databases and finding patients who served as controls in past trials of treatments for a certain similar condition to create -an External Control Arm. This helps advancing clinical trials that are stuck in limbo due to non -availability of human participation.

The need for human participants is negated by a data nugget.

Clinical Trails – Anytime, Anywhere, Anyone:

Advent of decentralized trials augmented by rapid proliferation of self-monitoring devices and wellness gadgets  and wearable device users is predicted to surpass 84 million in 2022. Pharma companies  are hard pressed to find a robust and resourceful ways to harness this data in real time.

Cloud-based clinical metadata repositories (CMDR) is an emerging trend that is seen as a viable solution to store digital data collated from various electronic devices. Centralizing data with cloud-based clinical metadata repositories, companies can readily access and analysis clinical trial data which can help arrive at more potent and safe drugs and treatments.

Real-time data visibility is indispensable for Pharma Supply chain efficiency

Archaic siloed structures, remnants of decade old legacy systems prevent pharma companies accessing data real time. Lack of end-to-end visibility precipitates jarring problems across the pharma supply chain, for example drug manufacturing wastage due lack of inventory visibility wreaks havoc on pharma company’s bottom line, causing an annual loss up to $7.4 B every year to the industry.

Digital enablement of supply chain is the succour, with top 10 pharma manufactures calling out supply chain optimization as one of the  3 critical areas to be more digitized.  By imbibing  technologies such as  IoT and RFID in the supply chain, decision makers desire a “Single view of the Manufacturing to Delivery Value Chain”.

Breaking down silos and enabling data across the organization in a harmonized manner and enriching it with external data such as weather, regulatory and customers data, Pharma companies will be able to capture robust real time data insights and plot measures and counter measures in planning and scheduling  drug delivery.

Blockchain – Unblocking Pharma Bottlenecks

Pharma companies are aware that collaboration amongst them can dramatically influence the speed at which a drug can reach the marketplace, nevertheless, are wary to collaborate, as it means opening up sensitive information that could harm business interests of the players.

By making Blockchain  cheaper, easier, and faster to verify  facts, it will be easier for partnering companies with competing interests to collaborate and safely work together in a shared, permanent ledger. They can do this without giving up control of or even revealing proprietary or sensitive data.

Bolstering Drug Supply Chain Security with Block Chain

The influx of spurious drugs has claimed lives of thousands of patients worldwide. In Asia, Africa and South America counterfeit drugs make around 10-30% of the total of the market, severely denting profit margins and harming the reputation of pharma companies.

Block chain technology will bring about radical security measures, fortifying supply chains of a pharma company with its barcode tracking system that tracks a drug from the conveyor belt to a customer.

Reinventing HCP Engagement with  AI/ML & Omnichannel Experience

To accelerate  adoption of new drugs by HCP’s, pharma companies use a plethora of avenues. This has made it difficult to measure the impact of marketing efforts on best fit strategy to win over HCP and to predict which channels will have the best outcome.

With 88% of HCPs want pharma companies to continue to launch new products,  Pharma companies are deploying AI/ML technologies to achieve brand optimization by mining healthcare data sets and deploying machine learning algorithms to plot and fine tune promotional strategies to capture the HCP mindset.


Digital enablement is transforming the pharma industry – at one end of the spectrum, a  pharma business leader can model various product portfolios, forecast sales, or gather real time insights to optimize agility & and at the business end , ensure reach of drugs to the consumer is secure and swift.

Digital Pharma will  continue to gather momentum and  pharma companies who seize this digital initiative can enjoy a  sustainable competitive advantage by providing better care to patients in the long run.

(The author Mr.Vijay K Veerra, Principal Consultant, Altimetrik and the views expressed in this article are his own)

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