drug developmentAlthough our main focus is to review IT in healthcare, it is also important to monitor developments in clinical trials as new drugs play a significant role in improving healthcare quality and reducing costs. We were delighted to once again be invited to be part of the Clinical Outsourcing World conference to take the pulse of developments in the drug development world. The stand-out presentation for us was from Professor David Kerr from the Oxford Clinical Trials Research Unit. His discussion focused on how new strategies and tactics in Asia could point the way forward in mature markets where costs and time-to-market need to be shrunk.

What’s in it for healthcare providers?

If we start with the premise that the value of healthcare innovation is currently insufficient for all stakeholders, then different questions need to be answered. According to the Office of Rare Diseases research, of the 700 human diseases, fewer than 300 are of interest to the life sciences industry due to limited prevalence and/or commercial potential, leading to a community of patients who have unmet medical needs. The challenge of pharmas facing unsustainable cost of innovation has been well documented. Many doctors are taking the view that it is safer to not prescribe a new drug during the first 2 years it has been on the market on account of too much uncertainty. THis highlights the need for healthcare providers to have much better access to benefit/risk information.

Regulators on the other hands are trying to straddle the competing demands of innovation and safety. For example, senior officials at the FDA acknowledge that the current regulatory model sets unrealistic expectations for the public that it is possible to eliminate all uncertainty about products safety prior to market approval. And with healthcare spending projected to reach 25% of GDP by 2025, reimbursement coverage decisions should be driven by evidence of clinical value if payment systems are to be sustained.

Virtual pharma in action

The answer seems to lie in radically streamlining ‘big pharma’ into ‘virtual pharma’ using small, focussed expert teams to manage delivery. Several strategic drivers allow virtual teams to prosper in Asia. The increasing importance of China, India, Russia and Japan as local markets in the global economy and changing consumption patterns and at the core. Driven by the rising middle class and urbanization, the private healthcare sector is strengthening and demanding better quality services. Virtual pharma teams have seized the opportunity to be key local players by working with stakeholders including governments, budget holders, pharmaceutical/biotech companies, HCPs and patients to develop collaborative trials networks, linking to centres in mature markets.

In collaboration with ACORN, a leading oncology trial network with 19 community sites, OxOnc is building a global oncology network infrastructure, the first of its kind. In China this is rolled out in partnership with the Personalized Medicine Initiative (PMI) with leading cancer hospitals organized by tumor types. In India INDOX network with its 12 top cancer centers and in Taiwan network of 8 top cancer centres. There are benefits of such a ‘virtual pharma’ network of international centers. Speed is the most obvious one. Multinational recruitment aids local drug registration and has the potential to lower costs.

Globalization of health

One of the main themes running through our research is the increasingly global nature of health delivery. Patients and medical professionals travel, and compare experiences. Social media has provided the means to easily compare best practices and cloud computing will put applications within easier reach. We now need the organizational motivation to embrace better practices. Will healthcare providers rise to the task?

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