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How has the pharmaceuticals industry changed in the last decade?

The pharmaceuticals industry has been revolutionised over the last decade due to advances in technology and globalisation – and with it have come changes in clinical research. However, the US has maintained its majority share of the market and oncology remains the most valuable branch of therapy.

As for the public’s involvement, they’re becoming increasingly aware of the drugs they’re being prescribed which has pushed pharma companies to develop a more personalised level of treatment in the form of precision medicine. These factors are the key driving forces behind the growth of the industry over the last decade and we only expect this to continue, which means the future is bright for clinical research professionals.

Here’s an overview of an exciting decade in pharmaceuticals.

Digital is revolutionising pharmaceuticals

Like every industry, pharmaceuticals has been transformed by digital technologies. Predictive analytics, big data analytics and AI-based tools have given companies the tools they need to redesign their business processes. Using this new information to create a revived business model means that companies can produce drugs faster than ever before while artificial intelligence has enabled us to improve a patient’s responsiveness to drugs.

The industry hasn’t missed out on tapping into the app market – according to Deloitte, from 2013 to 2016 pharma companies tripled the number of apps they developed. This is one example of how we’ve seen pharma shift towards being more patient-centric as these apps allow the public the be more in control of their health and engage better with companies on patient platforms.

Globalisation of pharma

As we entered the 2010s, we witnessed products for drugs being sourced and manufactured internationally, then sold on a global market platform – this globalisation is a first for the pharmaceuticals industry. Before this decade there were several R&D hubs but from 2010 onwards this shifted towards a global outsourcing of research capabilities and the mass manufacturing of drugs for both the developed and developing markets. This globalisation means that the CIVET group - Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt and Turkey - now have access to drugs, which is one major contributor to the growth of the pharmaceutical industry.

A decade of growth for pharma

It was announced in 2018 that the global pharmaceuticals market had cashed $1.2 trillion in revenue, which is a soaring 35% increase in just 10 years. America continues to have the biggest impact on this figure for various reasons, including lower taxes on drugs, a drop in prices and more relaxed regulatory barriers for new drugs.

Globally, we’re experiencing an ageing population who are presenting more complex health conditions which need medication. In 2010 China was the third largest pharmaceutical market and since then they’ve climbed up to second place, only behind the US, which remains a leader in clinical research. A key reason for this rise in the ranks is that in 2019, between August and November, their drug reimbursement list added 218 new medicines.

As the list continues to grow we expect the Chinese pharmaceuticals market to continue booming and helping the overall marketing grow from strength to strength.

Prescription medicines

In 2019 spending on prescription drugs hit US$500 billion, reflecting a two-fold increase in the last 10 years. Yet, according to Market Watch, 2019 also marked the first time in 47 years the price of prescription medicine has dropped, falling 6% lower than the price in 2010. The makeup of these drugs has transformed over the decade too, starting as small molecule or biologics and switching to in silico in 2010. This was a step towards developing treatments that were personalised for each patient and enabled the introduction of cell-based and gene-based therapies in 2011 and 2012 respectively.

The advent of precision medicine

Precision medicine considers a person’s genes, environment and lifestyle to predict which treatment will be most effective. The defining feature of this practice of medicine is the focus on genomic data to design the specific treatment paths - in other words, the study of how a person will respond to a drug based on their genetic makeup.

The advent of precision medicine has allowed the development of effective and safe medication that is tailored to the individual, thereby helping to improve the health of people who are not responding to standardised options. But pharma companies are only just scratching the surface of precision medicine as it’s expected that by 2025 the market will be worth US$85.5 billion.

Join us for another exciting decade in pharmaceuticals

If you want to work with the world’s top pharma, biotechnology and medical device companies, bring your career to ICON. We’re a leading clinical research organisation and are always looking for talented and driven people to help us become the partner of choice in drug development, particularly those who are clinical research associates.

View our clinical research jobs or browse all job categories to narrow your search.
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