Pharmaceutical companies have adjusted to the COVID-19 pandemic by reinventing themselves and becoming more flexible, adaptable and innovative.

by Annemarie Tankersley Read more from the Women Making an Impact issue

During the still-unfolding COVID-19 pandemic, entire industries have been devastated, shedding millions of employees and losing vast sums of revenue. One sector, however, has fared better than many others. And it’s hardly surprising given its unique position in the midst of global business turmoil.

Although pharmaceutical companies face their share of challenges, the pandemic has created both a need and an opportunity for them to innovate, reinvent and become more adaptable as they work furiously to develop coronavirus treatments and a vaccine.

To help speed these to market, regulatory bodies have adjusted requirements for fast-tracking new drugs while maintaining safety and data integrity. As always in the fight against disease, research and clinical trials are paramount.

“This collaboration [with Sanofi] is one of seven that we’re doing in vaccines for COVID-19—and we’re committed. We look at that whole portfolio of vaccines not to profit from it during this pandemic but to make sure we’re reinvesting in COVID research, not just necessarily for COVID-19, but coronaviruses.” GlaxoSmithKline CEO Emma Walmsley, to CNBC’s Mad Money

Fortunately, collaboration in the pharmaceutical industry is increasing, and digital technology is helping companies, academia, governments and nongovernmental organizations work together on R&D, production and governance.

History of course, plays a role. After the SARS outbreak in 2003, coronavirus experts wanted to keep working on treatments and vaccines–R&D that might have helped with COVID-19–but had trouble getting support.

This pandemic is a much louder call to action. Pharmaceutical companies are uniquely positioned to be able to respond by directing their reinvention toward preparing for the next pandemic, which many experts believe is only a matter of time. Doing so would include investing in coronavirus research; accelerating digital transformation, especially with artificial intelligence and predictive analytics; rethinking workflows; and fostering a growing sense of collaboration and patient-centricity.

Dig Deeper

To help understand the pandemic’s effects on the pharmaceutical industry, check out the following:

LISTEN

Making Patients Our Partners
In this seventh episode of the podcast Diverse Perspectives, Pfizer Chief Patient Officer Dr. Dara Richardson-Heron speaks with host Angela Hwang, group president of Pfizer Biopharmaceuticals Group, about the patient as North Star, addressing deeply rooted health inequities and pharma’s responsibility to patients—and society.

Keeping Clinical Trials Going During a Pandemic
In this RARECast podcast, Palvella Therapeutics Vice President of Development Operations Kathy Goin talks about the pandemic’s impact on a clinical trial for a non-COVID-19 treatment, and what she is learning about pandemic-proofing future trials.

READ

Healthcare’s ‘2008 banking moment’: What has COVID taught us?
Some of Europe’s health experts discuss lessons from the pandemic and how health care has changed in this post on the pharmaforum blog.

This article appeared in the Fall 2020 issue of Insigniam Quarterly. To begin receiving IQ, go here.


Annemarie Tankersley

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