Pharma will breathe easy when patient trumps drug

In development as in manufacturing, drugmakers have to get better at pushing beyond their core expertise if they want to maintain their power status among industries. IT-savvy non-pharma companies are already doing so, and they are gobbling opportunities that should belong to pharma.

A simple mantra will help drugmakers preserve their industry perch and perhaps restore the pharma image to the plus side of society's balance sheet: It's about patients, not drugs. It's about patients, not drugs....

The drug-centric view, with development driven by blockbuster sales goals, is a path to the industrial tar pits. Recent work by Ernst & Young shows that despite significant investment by drugmakers in smartphone apps, educational websites, and social media platforms, it's not enough.

Non-pharma players are outspending pharma to capitalize on today's "data-driven, patient-empowered, outcomes-focused healthcare environment." They've helped push mobile health apps beyond diabetes to 14 disease categories, by E&Y's count. Apps for tracking, scheduling and finding trials top the list.

The consultancy says pharma needs to be a proactive player in this business, not a dabbler.

Likewise with its manufacturing operations. Emphasizing patient outcome over drug financials is now essential there, too. IT consultancy Gartner, which creates an annual top 25 list of healthcare supply chains, uses quality of patient care and cost as its basis. An excellent drug supply chain alone won't get you on the list, but it will help to the extent that product-specific operations improve patient care.

Most of the drugmakers are clumped in positions 17 through 25.

It takes exceptional supply chain performance to even make the top 25 list, for sure. But the pharma industry will stake a leadership position in healthcare supply chain operations--and the Pharma 3.0 business as a whole--when it makes the shift to patient outcomes as its metric of success. - George Miller