May 15, 2012
Charting the Course for the Pharmaceutical Industry
At this final meeting of the 2011-2012 PMCQ season, the evening’s moderator, Dan Léger (Senior Director of Marketing at Lundbeck Canada Inc. and President of PMCQ), led us through a “state of the nation” discussion with a panel consisting of presidents and vice-presidents from Montreal’s leading pharmaceutical companies. Active participation was encouraged from the audience, in the form of burning questions to pose to the panel. The evening provided the opportunity for attendees to come together as members of the pharmaceutical industry to discuss, exchange and learn from each other with respect to the challenges that our industry is currently facing.
When asked about market dynamics and the biggest global challenges currently facing the industry, the panels identified loss of exclusivity, competition within a merger market, encouraging and attracting research and development opportunities in Canada, and product listing agreements that don’t exist in other countries.
Another topic raised during the discussion was how to repair negative image that the pharmaceutical industry has been dealt over last decade. All the panellists agreed that there is a need to “rehumanize” the industry to illustrate all the good it does. There is a need to go back to the basics and bring the focus on the benefits that we provide to patients and the emotional aspect associated with that. The clinical research done by our companies allows patients to receive state-of-the-art medicines that treat diseases, save lives and improve patients’ quality of life. All panellists also felt that “branding” our companies in the public eye should have a patient-centric focus and also show that we are a part of an ecosystem that exists to provide solutions that benefit patients.
When asked about how to respond to questions about the industry leaving Canada despite increasing prices in the marketplace, panellists responded that discussions need to be shifted from price to value for patients. Money in the industry isn’t being used to build new facilities anymore, but is instead being reinvested into R&D centres to allow for better research. While it may be felt that the industry benefits from good profit margins, it is important to communicate that millions of dollars are often invested in R&D to develop molecules that are never brought to market.
In response to a question about protecting intellectual property laws, panellists affirmed that intellectual property is key to the industry and that there is a need for predictability, which is currently not the case in Canada. There is a need to work with the government to develop a model for innovations in Canada that will allow us to reinvest in R&D, similar to what is being done in Europe. Strengthening our intellectual property laws will also allow us to be more competitive with emerging markets.
When asked about the futures of their companies, the panellists had varied responses. One challenge raised was the need to sell Canada globally. However, the new hospitals being built in Montreal may present research opportunities that could be leveraged to meet this need. Other panellists answered that their companies are focusing on LoE strategies, products in their pipelines, developing innovations that address more complicated diseases and the concept of personalized medicine.
This discussion led to the question of whether the era of the blockbuster is dead. The panellists generally felt that we are currently at a stage in the industry where we are looking for new areas of high need, as the “low hanging fruit” have already been harvested. The focus in the future will be on how newer diseases work and identifying what the targets will be for treating them. Once this has been accomplished, a new era of blockbusters may well be born.
In response to the point that 60% of decision making for product choices will be done by payers, the panellists identified that there needs to be more of a focus on designing clinical trials that will provide the type of data needed to obtain coverage from payers. Access is key and there needs to be a focus on harvesting the expertise within companies to have the most knowledgeable and experienced people working in this area. The members of the panel also emphasized that patients will become more important as decision-makers as costs are shifted over to them.
When asked to provide some final words of advice to employees and suppliers for the future, the panellists had a number of suggestions. One word of advice was to be sure that whatever is being developed, it should have a hard matrix and robust design in order to provide a good return on investment, so that we can achieve our desired results. Another comment reiterated that we need to focus on and communicate that we work in an industry that brings value to patients and has a positive impact on their lives. We develop medications that reduce morbidity and mortality and that message needs to be part of our message. The need to look beyond products to value-added services or management systems was also raised. These types of services need to be developed to help to address the needs of patients and healthcare professionals. Another panellist voiced that we need to work together to think through what is important to different stakeholder groups. For example, payers are dealing with budget issues and it is in everyone’s interests to come up with suggestions and solutions that will address their needs.
In conclusion, our moderator emphasized the importance of discussions such as the ones had during this event, as they allow us to reflect on the challenges we’ve faced over the past year. And although we may still be finding our way through the woods, through sharing our knowledge in this manner, we are working together to lay the road map for future direction.