As one of the most roller coaster years passed by, pharmaceutical manufacturers slowly came to peace in 2021. Gaining consumer confidence and an expected end of the Covid19 pandemic, are showing them signs of time to sit back and relax.
However, there are still some challenges that the pharmaceutical manufacturers and exporters might have to face for some more time. These challenges may be broadly classified into two kinds, that are external challenges and internal or production problems. Let us see what external problems the tablet manufacturing and exporting sector has to face.
1. Reduced demand for prescription drugs as OTC and low-cost Generics take the centre stage
While the end of the pandemic is expected to be round the corner, the variants of coronavirus are not done yet. COVID-19 case numbers continue to fluctuate and impact countries like India.
The impacts of COVID-19 will continue to influence the industry, as the customer purchasing power might remain at lower levels, as the unemployment continues to be a challenge around the world. As a ripple effect, people are reverting to low-cost generics and OTC medicines, dodging the branded and prescription medicines.
Some industry experts are anticipating that the branded tablet manufacturing sector will be back on track for rapid growth, as it was pre-pandemic. With factors such as an aging global population, increased prevalence of chronic conditions and the development of new drug therapies to encourage growth as the pandemic recedes and the economy recovers.
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2. Increased competition for generic pharmaceuticals post-pandemic
Upcoming patent expirations are not going down positively with some major pharmaceutical manufacturers, but turning tables for companies wanting to develop generic pharmaceuticals and consumers in search of lower prices on medicine.
Numerous pharmaceutical firms have lost the patents in the recent years, that used to offer highest gross profits. For example, Lucentis, which had showed sales valued at around more than $1.6 billion in 2020, and Bystolic, a high blood pressure drug, which had showed sales of $600 million in 2019; both lost their respective patents.
Such patent cliffs have thrown much significant risk to branded tablet manufacturing companies, while in case of the generic tablet manufacturing firms or smaller pharmaceuticals, it is quite significantly disruptive and opened up new opportunities.
3. Pharmaceutical frauds
Pharmaceutical fraud is still one of the most important challenges for the industry, and it was apparently at its worst during the COVID-19 pandemic. The industry from multiple countries has already experienced a higher-than-average health care fraud recoveries; speaking of which the US Government has already recovered $8 billion, out of which about $4 billion was part of Purdue Pharma’s settlement of lawsuits concerning opioid.
This became possible all because of the laws prevalent in the country, like the False Claims Act, which incentivises whistle-blowers to come forward about potential average sales price fraud, clinical trial fraud, good manufacturing practices (GMP) fraud and industry kickbacks. Such policies expose and prevent pharma frauds at a much larger scale.
It is because of these governmental laws and policies, that reducing pharmaceutical frauds went quite smoothly for countries like the US during the pandemic. Although more major recoveries are anticipated which might have a much disruptive impact on the industry.
So far manufacturers are concerned, frequent internal discussions and building strong ethical policies for controlling potentially fraudulent behaviour, is very much necessary.
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4. Rising consumer expectations and difficulties managing brand health
Another major challenge that the pharmaceutical industry is facing off late is poor brand health. These days, pharma manufacturing companies are often under regular scanner from customers, which means proper brand management is becoming more and more important than what it used to be before the pandemic hit.
Having said that, consumers are actually also expecting more from the pharmaceutical industry, and it is becoming more and more common for customers to gingerly consider the dollar value of every medicine, and check every possible alternatives both in terms of physical and digital platforms wherever the drugs are up for sale.
Therefore it is important for the pharma companies to be prepared for handling consumer expectations and managing brand crisis, which might even lead to problems in supply chains.
5. Data breaches and other cybersecurity threats
With the ever increasing number of cyber attacks, the safety of medical data, especially concerning consumer data is becoming more and more vulnerable. Multiple pharmaceutical companies have already succumbed to cybersecurity threats.
According to IBM’s 2020 Cost of a Data Breach Report, cyberattacks cost the industry more than $5 million last year, making it the fourth most-impacted industry, just behind health care, energy and finance.
Increased use of internet-connected manufacturing technology, such as industrial Internet of Things or IoT sensors, is one of the reasons that are making manufacturing facilities more vulnerable to cyber attack.
This definitely calls for increased investment in cybersecurity. Companies will also need to implement better cybersecurity policies not just within the office premises but also for the remote workers who are still working from home. Investments in IoT security may also be necessary for adopters of the technology.
6. Supply chain disruptions
Although the global pharmaceutical supply chains did not collapse under the tremendous pressure of COVID-19 pandemic, it certainly exposed some serious loopholes in the overall pharmaceutical logistics.
The lean supply chains are not strong enough to sustain sudden shocks or issues with production caused by events like that of a pandemic.
Hence, long manufacturing lead times and unpredictable demand are likely to cause problems are expected to continue. The supply chain may also be susceptible to artificial or intentional disruptions by the cybercriminals. Additionally, poor visibility and transparency in the system might even worsen some of these challenges.