Monday, 4 June 2018

What Is Smart Pharma and Will It Change the Industry?


Smarter pharmaceuticals and pharmacovigilance are transforming the healthcare space. But what exactly is “smart pharma” and how are these digital technologies transforming and benefitting the industry?

A special report by Megan Ray Nichols

Gone are the days of lozenges, pills and handmade tinctures. Instead, we’re seeing the rise in cost-effective, patient-led management of chronic illnesses and optimized service design. Smart pharma is the incorporation of new technologies to improve and enhance the healthcare industry as well as its efficiency and the experience of healthcare providers and service users.

The arrival of cloud technology, improvements in mobile communications, commonplace incorporation of AI and big data are the main factors giving rise to such innovation — and the pharmaceutical industry is transforming as these new technologies are ever-evolving and disrupting the space.

Advancements in medical adherence, capturing data, delivering treatments, pharma manufacturing supply chain and patient engagement have forced pharma companies to evolve and adapt in order to remain competitive. Below are some of the most exciting resultant areas of innovation:

Drug Development

The approach to drug development in recent years has been debated given the varied success of the processes employed. As part of smart pharma and pharmacovigilance, the use of mobile sensors can now allow data and physiology to be tracked as part of trials.

Remote monitoring has enabled drug development trials to be more effective, but only if sponsors are still able to collect the right data from the patients. To access to the proper digital tools to do this, especially to monitor serious adverse events (SAEs), principle investigators in the trial space rely on pharmacovigilance, which is the science of collection, analysis, detection and prevention of SAEs with pharmaceutical products.

Examples of these are cloud-based multi-platform tools to standardize the capture of SAEs, which improves the progress and efficacy of drug development. AI tools are also brought in to analyze the data provided at a faster rate to reveal patterns and form predictions.

Medical Adherence


Drug delivery technology has improved significantly over recent years and smart pharma is proving to overhaul historically poor medication adherence. Problems in medical adherence mainly include pain experienced by patients during the process, complications on the side of the healthcare provider due to complex adherence protocols and generally poor communication or lack of resources for effective administering of medicines.

Smart pharma’s approach to solving these issues is multi-faceted and a major advancement is the newly FDA-approved “digital pill,” which uses an embedded sensor to track if patients have ingested it. This will go some way toward helping the medical adherence of schizophrenic patients or individuals with similar paranoia issues.

Additionally, and interestingly, even the technology used to manufacture both traditional and next-generation pill-based medications, such as high-efficiency compressed air, can be credited with higher adherence rates thanks to more easily ingestible, not to mention marketable, textures and colors.

Tailored Treatment

Smart pharma has changed the way treatment plans are developed. Treatment plans are far more effective if they are tailor-made. However, these are particularly data-reliant to ensure patients receive the best drugs to treat themselves, and that’s exactly where smart pharma comes in.

McKinsey Global Institute suggests that smart pharma will enable a digital ecosystem which monitors the health of patients and sends data as updates to stakeholders. As a result, healthcare service providers will be empowered to target areas as part of the patient’s treatment plan that need more improvement.

Smart pharma is opening up a new era of patient empowerment as well as more intelligent processes and procedures, making healthcare providers more efficient and targeted with their time. This positive change is creating more possibilities for the industry that could go on to save billions for hospitals, governments and customers in the future, as well as, and much more importantly, saving lives and preventing illnesses.

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