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Impact of IT on Indian pharma industry


Dr Subroto Ghoshal, Manager- Human Resources, Mindteck India elaborates on the need to improve connectivity between IT and pharma industry for providing better diagnosis and cost effective treatment to patients

20150331ep20India is considered to be the most favoured destination for information technology (IT) companies while Indian pharmaceutical industry is the world’s third largest in terms of volume. Today the pharma industry relies heavily on technology in terms of process management, data analytics, content management, identify cost effective therapy and to engage with the customers. Medical device, which form an integral part of our healthcare system is heavily dependent of software technology.

The Indian pharma industry is highly fragmented and has grown enormously in the last 20 years. This industry is highly dependent on science and technology. It is assumed that there are around 24000 players in this segment and around 330 in the organised sector.

The organised pharma industry has been growing at about eight to nine per cent annually. India is among the top five pharma emerging markets. There are provisions for phase II clinical trials and new drug launches in the coming year. Continued growth in therapies and expansion in rural market, the Indian pharma industry is expecting a growth of 13–14 per cent. The domestic pharma market is expected to grow because of increasing population of the higher income group. It is estimated that the healthcare industry in India may touch $31.59 billion by 2020.

Revenue generated by IT industry

Source: 2014

The Indian market for therapeutics and diagnostics is expected to grow inspite of conflict with the US over intellectual property rights (IPR) related issues. Generics will continue to dominate the domestic market while patient-protected products will constitute 10 per cent of the share till 2015, according to Mckinsey report ‘India Pharma 2015 – Unlocking the potential of Indian pharmaceutical market.’

Changes in the business model of the big pharma companies will result in better opportunities for the Indian pharma industry. India has a major advantage of production cost which is almost 50 per cent lesser than that of western countries while clinical trial expense is around one- tenth of the western countries. Budget allocation by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has been increased by the Government of India from Rs 275 billion in FY 14 to Rs 352 billion in FY 15.

According to ‘2014 Global life Sciences Outlook’ by consultancy firm Deloitte, pharma sales in India was at $22 billion in 2012 and is expected to touch $ 27 billion in 2016. The opportunity for Indian pharma industry looks greener as 46 US drug patents are expected to expire by 2015. The pharma export has been the lifeline for the growth of this industry but unfortunately 2013-14 has witnessed the slowest growth.

IT & ITeS industry in India

The Indian IT and information technology-enabled service (ITeS) sector has enhanced the economic growth of the country. This industry has provided job opportunities to almost 10 million Indians and is the fastest growing market in the world. India has an edge over other countries due to cost competitiveness in providing IT services. India has a potential to build a $100 billion software product industry by 2025, according to Indian Software Product Industry roundtable (iSPIRT). The India IT-BPM industry is anticipating to add $13-14 billion by FY-2015, according to National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM).

The current estimated size of the industry is about $2.91 billion and is expected to grow to $8.08 billion by 2016.

The government has a major role in the development of the Indian software industry. In 1986, Government of India announced a new software policy, which was further enhanced in 1988 with the establishment of the software technology park of India (STPI) scheme. The government provided foreign equity of up to 100 per cent and duty free import to attract foreign direct investment.

The government is trying to promote IT and ITeS sector through various initiatives like launch of Bharat domain name, which will cover eight languages and enhance the reach of the Internet to remote villages. It will launch a series of new initiatives by the Government of Karnataka and NASSCOM to build one of Asia’s largest start up warehouse, extended tax holiday to the IT sector for STPI and special economic zones (SEZ).

IT in pharma industry

The major need for IT in pharma industry was felt to decrease the manual work, e-documentation, high competition and less time to reach market. IT is the application of computer and the equipment to inter connect clinicians, prevent medication error, store and retrieve pharma data, data analytics related to the industry or business. The automation of the work process of the pharma industry is the essence of IT system. For the pharma industry, there are various automated IT system available like computerised physician order entry (CPOE), enterprise resource planning (ERP), laboratory information management system (LIMS), customer relationship management (CRM), clinical trial management system (CTMS), sales force automation (SFA), electronic batch records (eBR) to name a few. Each of the automated application has a specific area of function and helps in storage, maintaining, analysis of data related to the specific function area.

Enterprise resource planning or ERP as commonly referred, integrates all data and processes of an organisation. ERP application helps in facilitating the information flow between all the functions of the business. This application works on a macro level and covers modules like production and inventory management, weighing and dispensing, e-batch records, e-packaging records, financial management, human resource management etc. LIMS which is very crucial for any pharma company, manages the information flow within the laboratory. This application helps automate the laboratory process by increasing productivity, efficiency and quality of analysis. This takes care of 70 per cent of laboratory guidelines and help laboratories to implement good laboratory practice (GLP) procedures.

Electronic prescribing system (EPS) ensures the system of prescribing, supply and administration of medicines in hospitals where a minor error in medication can have fatal impact on the patient. Currently, very few hospitals have been using this system in India. Barcoding of medicines is being aligned with electronic prescribing system and has been effective in reducing medicine administration error and improve completeness of medication history. A new falsified medicine directive (FMD) is being planned for implementation in 2017, for unique identification of medicines at the point of dispensing in order to restrict counterfeiting.

Mobile technology is widespread and used at different levels. Apart from reminder alert to patients, sophisticated application have been developed for disease monitoring like peak flow reading in asthma, blood glucose level, medication adherence support and health education.

Medical information in pharma industry

The primary role of medical information department in a pharma and medical device company is to address the queries about the company’s product. Medical information system’s purpose is to provide customer support, inquiries and response. The team for this in most companies consists of doctors of pharmacy, nurses, MDs, Ph.Ds and other life scientists. The reason for this is the team have scientific and medical training to handle medical information and interact with the healthcare providers. The information is provided through call centres and content developers. In certain cases this category of service falls under ITeS and depends heavily on technological support in medical field. Medical information is largely a customer and practitioner integrated department in the area of biotechnology, pharma and medical device companies. A variety of software applications are available to empower medical information team to support patients with healthcare professionals and this system still continues to evolve.

Technology in medical devices

Medical device have become an integral part of our healthcare system. These devices are based on high technology medical-based software application. As per World Health Organization (WHO), there are around 1.5 million medical devices available in the global market starting right from low cost thermometer to sophisticated devices like MRI and chemotherapy machines.

Globally, the medical devices today are based on wireless communication technologies such as Bluetooth smart and IrDA which are connected to smart phones, tablets, computers and other medical devices. Advancement have been made in India on the various medical device front. Mobile hand held devices are being developed in India where a device can monitor blood sugar level, pulse rate, blood pressure, oxygen level of a patient in remote area and can transmit the same to the healthcare service provider or practitioner to enable quick treatment support. This is based on integration of wireless technology in medical device which is remote patient monitoring (RPM) and medical body area network (MBAN). Today, there are a few downloadable applications available which can be used to activate and run medical device connected to the computer thus taking the innovation to a new horizon. The development of microprocessor, memory cards and miniature electronic circuits have motivated the pharma and medical device companies to innovate small medical device which can be carried in the pocket as well.

Trend in the technology for future pharma industry

The pharma industry is seeing a shift in the pattern of their operations. Many collaborations are being witnessed in this sector like Israel-based Teva pharmaceuticals in collaboration with Procter and Gamble plans to set up OTC medicine facility while Eli lilly and Strides Arcolab had inked a pact to deliver cancer medicines in emerging markets. The change in the patient behaviour with healthcare professionals and emerging technologies are creating new opportunities for collaboration and is having impact on the future of the pharma industry.

Pharma companies have started focusing on the location- based capabilities and wide scale use of smart phones to engage with patients and provide them useful service with the aim to improve the quality of life. Pharma companies are now understanding the need and utility of ‘Big Data’. For this industry, the data comprises of electronic medical records (EMR) coming with genomics and genetic data, financial data and patient data to get details of which therapy provided high value at lowest cost to the patient. This data is crucial for healthcare reforms. Earlier, data used to be in silos but with the advancement of technology, data is now shared with the objective to find new opportunity and unlocking far more potential. This data helps R&D organisation to use in multiple outlets including research laboratories, contract research organisation and for academic purpose.

This industry is also migrating towards cloud market to meet the requirements of life sciences. Cloud market has been mostly used for sales and marketing within the pharma companies but now it is being explored to overcome IP issues, security issues and to reduce the operational cost.

The power of social media and the impact it has on the customer has been realised by the pharma companies. The pharma industry is bound by strict marketing and FDA regulation, but some of them are trying to build new forum to get associated with the customers. An example of this is Sanofi, which has experimented with social media by building Facebook community for diabetes patient who share their experience with the disease. This helps in improving and have focus on the health and wellbeing of the patient and build the company’s image as a responsible service provider for the society.

Peek into the future

The pharma industry is experiencing a paradigm shift with IT advancement. Multiple range of systems are available to support the work flow and they should ensure to harness the technology for industry’s growth. New technology will play an important role in the pharma industry with respect to utilising data analytics to identify best targeted and cost-effective therapy or using social media to get connected with the customers. In India, healthcare has been heavily urban based. The rural area has been under privileged and the pharma industry has not been too aggressive in penetrating into this area. However, today, the focus of the industry is changing, realising the potential of rural India pharma market. It has been realised that with the IT, rural sector can be served much better giving a boost to countries economic growth. India will not reap its full success in information technology and pharma industry unless it creates opportunities for local community and rural area. Players who adopt and innovate will be successful in the long term.

2. ASA & associates LLP; A brief report on pharmaceutical industry in India, May 2014
4. India healthcare industry report:2014, Emerging markets direct report; July 18.2014
8. The increasing importance of software in medical device by Mitch Posada, March 3, 2014

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