Sarah Morgan

Healthcare Geek.
Professional Communicator.


When Will Big Pharma Become the Underdogs?

health_question_mark1In which I get uncharacteristically industry-opinionated under my own byline for once. I don’t think anything I’m going to say is particularly novel, but it’s all been stewing in my head for some length of time, so I thought I’d get it down.

I believe what we’re about to see is Big Pharma becoming the underdog in their own industry.

Tech and CPG companies are coming in, and little startups have the guts to play for big stakes. It’s a lot easier for a small organization to be nimble, and it’s a lot easier for an outsider to be innovative. It’s hard for a big dog to turn on a dime, to be comfortable with failure, to set ego aside.

And the challenges the industry are facing are not ones that Big Pharma has a proven ability to handle yet. In the U.S. at least, we’re still trying to figure out how to handle biosimilars. Drug prices remain under constant attack. Whenever the meaningful-use phase of the Affordable Care Act actually kicks in, it’s at least shifted the conversation to one of outcomes, not scripts. Payers have the power these days. This is all as new to Big Pharma as it is to the new guys.

The old guard has new problems – and a lot more competition and patent cliffs and detractors – than it did when its C-suite executives were coming up through the ranks. So they’re lobbying and cost-cutting and restructuring and spinning off and licensing in. But you can only do so much of that for so long.

In my opinion, the areas to focus on are mHealth, testing for specialized medicine, and rare diseases. These are not obviously rapid moneymakers, so they’re not immediately attractive. They require investment in new verticals. They require new ways of doing business. But they’re what we need.

I’m not linking out in this post as much as I do. On the one hand, there are very many people saying many of these things, so there are too many sources to list. But on the other hand, I’m assembling my own assertions, and I don’t want to pull anyone down with me.

It’s interesting: I’m used to being opinionated as a ghostwriter. It feels different to do it myself.



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