The smart prescription for pharma leaders to click

Mohan Joshi, Independent Management Consultant, writes about how latest digital technology has the potential to disrupt the influence that pharma industry enjoys over its customer base, if not used wisely

Once no one would have accused the pharma industry of being nimble-footed. There were not many players, they produced familiar medicines, took expected steps and predictability was almost a virtue. Then came the great malady—disruptive technology!

Take the group of key opinion leaders (KOLs) for example. The opinions of these influential physicians had the power to shape the next launch and decide the fate of an existing brand. These influencers were usually based in big cities, had a clutch of professional achievements to their credit, a buzzing calendar, and, of course, a large patient-base.

Today, rubbing shoulders with them is a family doctor (“just a GP”) from a tier-three city. His primary claim to fame is the number of thousands of ‘friends’ and ‘followers’ waiting to ‘like’ his next online pronouncement on a disease or some medicine.

Yes, today’s medical representative knows that the ‘connected’ opinion leader (COL) is as important as any good old KOL.

Take two and check app

If diabetes and cardiac issues are your areas of interest, you would know Cipla as a major player in the domain. What you may not have expected Cipla to do is to reach you through your smartphone as part of the regimen.

That’s what they are set to do, now that they have bought a stake in Wellthy Therapeutics, which will provide a “multi-lingual clinically validated digital disease management platform to patients living with diabetes or cardiovascular diseases via doctors’ clinics or co-packaging on select Cipla brands.”

Cipla’s rationale for the deal is a pointer to more such marriages in the industry: “The future of healthcare will be driven by increased use of technology, and this partnership gives Cipla the ability to offer this combination of prescription drugs and artificial intelligence-powered digital therapeutics to patients in cardiometabolic health.”

Test for relevancy

Given the huge investments in people, plants and laboratories, course corrections can be slow and expensive for pharma companies. So, how does today’s pharma leader steer for the future while sitting on a rather heavy and ageing steed?

The acid test before the adoption (or acquisition) of new technology must be its relevance to the company’s goals. While resources may have to be reassigned, the leader must communicate clearly to ensure confusion does not affect morale. Before you green-light the next project, the primary question ought to be how long it would take to bring in the returns.

While longevity is welcome, that everything will always remain the same despite advances in technology is an unhealthy assumption for humans as well as corporates.