A Pharma Reset: What Next for the Industry After COVID-19?

The Covid-19 pandemic changed the world, and its effects will be felt for a long time to come, but there is some good news on the horizon: The World Health Organization predicts that the end of the global pandemic is in sight.

“2022 must be the end of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, at the last COVID briefing of 2021. “Two years into the situation, we know the virus very well and we have all the tools to fight it.”

In terms of predicting future scenarios, a lot is riding on the effect of boosters, vaccine efficacy and new oral therapeutics, but it is safe to say that most sectors, but particularly the pharma and healthcare industries, have been irrevocably changed by the pandemic.

A post-COVID reset

A trend report by McKinsey entitled, ‘The Next Normal Arrives – Trends that will Define 2021 and Beyond’, claims that as consumer confidence returns, it will be a vastly different reality that awaits the retail and healthcare sectors, especially in terms of the adoption of e-commerce pharmacies, streamlined supply chains, and the implementation of digitisation and AI (Artificial Intelligence) in telehealth.1

A key take-out of the report is that there was an incredible acceleration in the use of technology and these new forms of working will show no sign of slowing down. In fact, many industry executives report that they managed to move 20 to 25 times faster than they thought possible on things like building supply chain redundancies, improving data security and increasing the use of advanced technologies in operations. 2

In the past, it could take a decade or longer for game-changing technologies to evolve from just ‘cool new things’ to productivity drivers. But the COVID-19 crisis sped up that transition in areas such as AI and digitisation by several years – even faster in Asia. Today, companies are three times more likely than before the crisis to conduct 80% of customer interactions digitally.

The evolution has not always been a seamless or elegant process. Businesses had to scramble to install or adopt modern technologies under intense pressure and the result is that some systems are seen as cumbersome.3 The near-term challenge is to move from reacting to the crisis to building and institutionalising what has been successful so far. For consumer industries, and in particular retail, that could mean improving digital and omnichannel business models such as e-commerce pharmacies and establishing virtual options in telehealth as a norm. 4

 

The rise of online pharma distribution platforms  

 

In the pharma industry, one of the most important take-outs from 2020/21 was the need for agile and efficient pharma distribution partners that could cope with the demands of e-pharmacy growth and finding ways of circumventing unexpected supply chain issues.

 

Dispensing volumes of e-commerce pharmacies grew by 45% in 20201, resulting in additional pressure on pharmaceutical warehousing and logistics facilities. Increased demand for storage space brought home just how important choosing a reputable, flexible, and innovative storage and logistics partner is for your business.

During the pandemic, pharmacies have had to quickly adopt an online approach to handling the ever-growing demand for medicines and goods. According to Statista, it is estimated that there are over 390 ‘distance selling’ pharmacies active in the UK today alone and Clarity Pharma has been approached by more online pharmacies than ever before, which highlights the popularity of online pharma products. 5

As online purchases in the healthcare market grow, so does prescription fraud and a host of illegitimate e-pharmacies; examples of pharmaceutical fraud include the issuing of fake COVID medication and false cures for other illnesses. Many distributors in this fraudulent market are from less regulated countries, where medications are often easily accessible online.

For healthcare providers, e-commerce pharmacies and pharmaceutical distributors to remain competitive, companies must remain compliant and adhere to the various rules and regulations to avoid fines that could add to the overall cost of doing business online.

With its Home Office Controlled Drugs Licence approval, Clarity Pharma boasts an impressive warehousing capacity, which includes a state-of-the-art controlled drug vault and 578ft of controlled drugs space. As warehouses continue to face a ‘race for space’ with only 18 million sq. ft set to become available this year, Clarity has a definite competitive advantage at its disposal.

The pandemic also showed us that supply chains can be at significant risk when there is an overreliance on a located vulnerable to disruption. To mitigate risk, product locations should be moved closer to end markets on in lower risk countries. This could mean less disruption in a supply chain.

Telehealth – a bridge to care

A strong uptake and favourable consumer perception and tangible investment are contributing to the growth in telehealth with analysis indicating that its use has increased by 38 times from its pre-COVID baseline. 6

This was fuelled by increased willingness to use telehealth, coupled to regulatory changes enabling greater access. Telehealth offers a bridge to care and a chance to reinvent virtual and in person care models – with improved healthcare access, outcomes, and affordability. Investment in virtual care and digital health has skyrocketed, fuelling further innovation with 3x the level of venture capitalist digital investment in 2020 than 2017. 7

Post-Covid, the intense focus on risk management across networks and supply chains will continue, despite the inevitable costs. To flourish, companies should consider re-evaluating their strategies, risk tolerance and overall network footprint to address these risks.

There are also fundamental implications for contract manufacturing companies and a gradual shift away from global supply chains to self-sufficient local supply chains. These changes may require sourcing strategies to and agile and strategic procurement. Automating manufacturing processes and warehouses will also play a key role in the future, increasing data available and decreasing a reliance on labour. Revaluating the future of work will be a key focus and the pharma industry is no exception. Workforce agility will enable a leaner, more flexible and well-distributed organisation. 8

Your partner in the path to recovery

At Clarity Pharma, we understand this unique business environment, and our team continues to provide world class warehousing and logistics services, as well as a digital portal, to those seeking to grow their presence in the UK healthcare market. Our range of value added services around regulatory compliance and commercial market access means that you can make the right decisions to future-proof your organisation.

References:

1,2.3,4 https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/leadership/the-next-normal-arrives-trends-that-will-define-2021-and-beyond

5 https://clarity-pharma.com/growth-in-online-pharmacy-sales-during-pandemic-drives-pressure-on-uk-pharma-logistics/

6,7https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/healthcare-systems-and-services/our-insights/telehealth-a-quarter-trillion-dollar-post-covid-19-reality

8 https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/life-sciences/our-insights/pharma-operations-the-path-to-recovery-and-the-next-normal