How Big Data Could Help Pharma Beyond Scientific Uses

We know the clinical impact it can have, but where else could it work?


We have discussed the use of Big Data in pharmaceuticals fairly thoroughly, looking at how it is being used to power more effective drug production and increasingly specific trialling, but the use of Big Data is having an impact in other areas of the business too.

From the basic to the complex, it is helping to create a better infrastructure for pharma companies, bringing about change in ways that have seen the industry overcome some of the challenges it is currently facing.

One of the prime examples is through the use of cloud computing and the integration of global data into a single useable database. Through having this kind of information easily available on a single server, the global workings of the company are far easier to see. It means that stock levels can be monitored throughout the world and countries who have a higher need for specific drugs can therefore be better serviced.

Take the Nepal crisis as a prime example, where millions of people required treatment. We saw Allergan, AstraZeneca, GSK, Johnson and Johnson, Paladin, Pfizer, Pharmascience, Sunovian, and Teva all contributing medicines to this cause and data would have allowed them to source these. They would need to know where to collect these simply because if they had chosen to use the stocks from a country that had a high demand for specific medicines or just the closest hub to Nepal, they may have created a shortage there. It would also need to have taken this stock from areas close to either Nepal itself or international depots who were flying supplies to the area.

This kind of work is vital to the survival of millions in disaster struck areas and pharma companies frequently find that it falls to their stock to save these lives, using Big Data means that there is going to be not only less impact on the company’s bottom line, but also increases the amount that can be sent and the speed in which it can arrive.

Big Data has allowed for business process improvement across the entire company, meaning reduced operating costs and increased budgets for other more important areas of the company. For instance, it allows pharma companies to see where they are losing money within their processes and make changes to rectify this. If they can create a system where they get accurate data from all areas of the company then they are likely to be able to improve their performance throughout the entire company. Even if they can make 1% improvement in performance across 5 divisions, it will still represent a significant improvement when taken in the context of overall company performance.

Just like any other company that creates a product, pharma companies also have salespeople, in AstraZeneca’s case 30,000 around the world. It is well known that Big Data has a significant effect on sales in almost any company. It allows for more targeted sales tactics and identifying people who are most likely to need their products. It makes the sales process much simpler and will also mean less cold calls and customers who do not feel that they are being harassed by salespeople.

Big Data will not only be of benefit to the company itself though, it will be a considerable benefit to those buying from pharma companies.

This is because across the world we are going to see that the cost of healthcare increasing. This is because in the western world there is generally an ageing population combined by a funding crisis for many state led healthcare initiatives. It means that healthcare providers will need to be looking at ways of decreasing their overall spend on medical supplies without having an impact on the quality of their care.

If healthcare companies can reduce spend in other areas of the company, then it will become possible to reduce the price-per-unit of their medical supplies without impacting their overall profitability. It will mean that healthcare providers have the opportunity to maintain or improve their current quality of care as their funding will not need to be spent as heavily on the medical supplies from pharma companies, making the entire ecosystem healthier and more profitable. 


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