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Artificial Intelligence’s Leap in Pharma Industry

Dr Harshit Jain, Founder & CEO, Doceree writes about the potential of AI implementation in the pharma industry and the role it can play in enhancing operations in various segments

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In the wake of digitisation, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has taken a leap in the pharmaceutical industry ranging from discovery to go to market. It has a wide-reaching potential in the pharma industry such as research & development, clinical trials, marketing and sales analytics. Using a machine learning programme can reduce the time spent on examining data, saving money and allowing researchers to focus on other issues.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere, from fantasy football to customer service, we will soon be encountering AI programmes in almost every sphere of our lives. But, it is equally important to know what AI technologies are going to be truly transformative. Let’s have a sneak peek that how it runs the gamut of pharma space prolifically.

Role of AI in ‘Drug Discovery and its Development’
How significant is the role of AI in drug discovery to go to market can be better understood by the projected exponential growth to reach USD 1,434 million by 2024 from USD 259 million in 2019, at a CAGR of 40.8% during the forecast period (2019–2024). The growth of the AI in the drug discovery market is primarily driven by an array of factors such as the growing number of cross-industry collaborations and partnerships, the increasing need to control drug discovery & development costs and reduce the overall time taken in this process, the rising adoption of cloud-based applications & services, and the impending patent expiry of blockbuster drugs.

The global AI in the drug discovery market is segmented into four major regions — North America, Europe, Asia Pacific Accreditation Cooperation (APAC), and the rest of the world. These countries have been early adopters of AI technology in drug discovery and development. In India, the pharmaceutical companies have started recently to demonstrate significant interest in AI application for drug discovery. Most of the prominent companies have announced heavy investments and have entered into strategic alliances with various AI-driven companies and leveraging AI for drug discovery. Some of the key alliances include:

Role of AI in Pharma R & D
Latest researches have shown that the global pharmaceutical industry spends a significant amount of revenue on Research and Development (R&D) activities that are failing to deliver projected returns but that digital transformation with Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been emerging as a harbinger towards enhancing R&D productivity and effectiveness and creating interest among industry leaders to opt it. In fact, the market volume for AI-based medical imaging, diagnostics, personal AI assistants, drug discovery, and genomics is projected to reach $10B by 2024.

According to an ICON survey of more than 300 executives, managers, and professionals in biopharma and medical device development companies, nearly 80 per cent of respondents said their firms plan to use, or are using, AI or Big Data approaches to improve R&D performance. Moreover, the umbrella category of AI and advanced analytics was seen as digital technology with the most potential to improve R&D productivity, reveals ICON’s 2019 report on digital disruption in biopharma.

While no AI-generated drugs have reached the market yet, the AI application has been successful in fields such as diagnostic imaging and radiotherapy which is already a big step ahead. The AI will eventually find its position in pharma’s value chain and strengthen the R&D, the question is how, when and at what cost? However, as the researchers point out, effective co-ordination needs to be put in place to fully optimise digital transformation for R&D, which may slow down progress.

Role of AI in Pharma Marketing
The role of AI in the pharma marketing is significant from various perspectives. As pharma is a sales-driven industry, AI can be a useful tool to refine marketing decision-making and strategies. Using AI to chart a customer journey can allow a business to identify the direct marketing messages that they have been exposed to and which led to a purchase. Knowing how AI can analyse data from past campaigns, allows companies to invest in the most lucrative schemes as sales and marketing have become more scientific.
Artificial Intelligence arms the Medical Representatives (MRs), and the plan gets even further refined. The AI program can take into account near real-time customer interactions and data, and use that information to recommend immediate “next best actions” for Sales Representatives. For example, the AI system might suggest that a rep contacts a particular doctor soon because the doctor just attended a seminar that relates to the science behind the rep’s product.

There is one case study where a pharma company wanted to market a small-niche therapy to cardiologists. There were potentially 150,000 doctors whom the Sales Representatives could contact, but only 2,000 to 3,000 of them were likely to be customers of the therapy at any one time. Using AI, the company was able to predict which doctors were likely to prescribe in the near future, and then had their limited sales force target only those doctors in a timely manner.

There are other usages of AI in pharma marketing. Some of them are listed below:

  • Understanding the customer journey (patient or provider) from start to finish, to gain insights about their likely next steps, such as switching to a competitor’s brand, enabling a rep to make a timely contact
  • Better understanding individual customer behaviours for their thousands of customers, and customising their offerings and optimising the delivery of these offerings to each individual customer
  • Analysing unstructured data, such as call notes, call centre audio, EHR notes, and social media, to identify and gain insights into healthcare professionals, enabling a company to recruit up-and-coming influencers for speaker programs and other thought leadership positions
  • Better diagnosing drivers of brand performance at a granular level, and automating reactive strategies for brand growth compared with the EU or other parts of the world. Therefore, analysing which drugs patients are buying is an integral part of the US industry that AI can help improve

Role of AI in Diagnosis
Some programs with the help of AI have been created to overcome limitations inherent in conventional computer-aided diagnosis that simulates expert human reasoning. It has been instrumental in solving many of the problems impeding the creation of effective AI programs. Strategies have been developed to limit the number of hypotheses that a program must consider and incorporate pathophysiologic reasoning. The latter innovation permits a program to analyse cases in which one disorder influences the presentation of another. Prototypes embodying such reasoning can explain their conclusions in medical terms that can be reviewed by the user.

Most of the big corporations have already frayed into the production of AI-based diagnosis instruments. The AI-based digital advancements in healthcare hold great promise for improving diagnostic speed and confidence as well as the most appropriate path for treatment. Philips — a leading health technology company focused on improving people’s health and enabling better outcomes across the health continuum has produced AI-based cancer assessment tools to help pathologists improve speed and accuracy of cancer diagnostics. Likewise, Babylon Health, UK, known for building AI-based platforms that help diagnose patients’ issues has produced chatbot.

Pharma interaction with physician through AI
According to Veeva’s European Commercial & Medical Summit held in Jan’ 2020, it came out that 85 per cent of doctors want access to Medical/Sales Representatives through “virtual services” such as online meetings and events, in addition to face to face interactions. Although, MR/SR can’t be replaced completely, yet Pharma companies can leverage AI to orchestrate the engagement with doctors in a cost-effective way.

Pharma companies should focus their efforts on using digital channels to enhance the offerings from Medical/Sales Representatives. A recent report by Brookings into how artificial intelligence will affect the workplace sums up — Digital channels such as video and online meetings are ways of building the relationships these Representatives. As per this report, just over 37 per cent of the tasks carried out by technical Sales Representatives can be automated by AI-based systems. Pharma companies looking to build credible relationships with their clients should focus on AI as a tool to help Medical/Sales Representatives do their jobs.

In line with the AI’s revolution in the Pharma industry, Doceree has taken a leap with its — new patented technology on Pharma Ad-Tech, which has been influencing the US Pharma marketing & advertising with its latest digital modules based on AI at a faster pace.

Doceree drives the new-age digital solution, which helps advertisers to bring personalisation, optimisation and measurability in their digital efforts. It has brought a new concept of addressing the problem of the rising cost of healthcare by bringing efficiency & effectiveness in Healthcare marketing by using data and creativity.

Interestingly, it has also developed a special module for the pharma industry that addresses the real problems pharma industries face in targeting the doctors and maximising their reach, devising the solution to bridge the massive gap and help maximise doctors’ reach by the pharma companies in minimum resources.

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