Breaking down Silos

The session on Breaking down Silos: Technologies Revolutionising the Future of Pharma Industry was conducted at Elets Global Healthcare Summit & Awards in Dubai. It envisioned what the pharma industry may look like in the future, and identified strategies and solutions that can help the industry stay ahead of the curve and meet the evolving needs of patients and society. Edited excerpts:

Farah Fakhouri, Founder & Managing Director, Wave Health Consultancy moderated the session and stated, “The role of technology in our daily lives, particularly in the healthcare sector, is growing significantly. We are witnessing rapid advancements in Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and other technological innovations that are transforming the way we approach healthcare.”

Dr Magdi Fahmi, Chief Executive Officer, LIFEPharma, UAE

“Technology has become ubiquitous and is rapidly changing the way things are manufactured and regulated. The last 10 years have seen a revolution in manufacturing, machines and technology”. stated Dr Magdi.

The government and regulatory bodies have also been leveraging technology to help people advance their work. The Ministry of Health and other regulatory agencies are adopting new technologies to make regulations more clear and efficient. For example, the CTT format and changes in regulations are being reflected positively, matching the requirements of the industry.

He added, “Moreover, the regulatory bodies are using technology to speed up the registration process. Recently, many products have been registered immediately, including COVID-19 treatments that were approved using the emergency way. This rapid approval process was only possible due to the adoption of new technology in regulatory procedures.”

Overall, the integration of technology in the regulatory process is helping to streamline operations and making it easier for everyone involved. The changes in the manufacturing process are also being reflected positively in regulations, creating a better and more efficient system. As technology continues to evolve, it will be interesting to see how regulatory bodies adopt new technology to improve their processes further.

Manal Allam, IT Head & Business Partner – Middle East, Merck Group

Manal commenced the session and expressed, “In recent years, technology has been transforming the healthcare industry in many ways, bringing new opportunities and challenges.” She focused on four challenges that we face today, and how we can address them to ensure that technology continues to benefit humanity.

She added, “The first challenge is cost. With a large population of underprivileged people who cannot afford adequate internet connectivity and devices, such as laptops or iPads, there are limitations to solutions like telemedicine. Another example is compassionate AI, which provides palliative care for terminal situations by administering drugs and providing counseling for depression. However, not all of these solutions are covered by insurance, which limits access to those who need it most. To address this challenge, we need to find ways to make these technologies more affordable and accessible to everyone.”

The second challenge is the maturity of emerging technologies, such as the metaverse. The metaverse has tremendous potential to advance healthcare in all fronts, from rehabilitation to drug discovery and development, surgery planning, and healthcare professional training. However, we don’t yet have the required technologies to enable the metaverse in mainstream healthcare. We need to collaborate more to advance these components and ensure that they are less competitive in this area.

“The third challenge is data governance. Our medical data exists in scattered systems, from institutions, hospitals, pharmacies, and insurance companies to our cookies and wearables. While this wealth of information is amazing for AI to predict diseases and drug discovery, we need to ensure that it is coherent and used for the greater good. We need to democratise data, meaning that data doesn’t belong to anybody; it’s for everybody’s greater good”, she further added.

The fourth challenge is the monopoly of technology. Technology is used to advance political agendas, changing the political power balance in the world. While entrepreneurs who develop these technologies need to make benefits out of them, we need to balance how to be humane, especially for the technologies related to healthcare. It’s about human beings, and we need to think about the greater good in collaboration.

Concluding the session she stated, “Technology has brought tremendous opportunities to the healthcare industry, but we also face challenges that need our attention to address them. We need to find ways to make these technologies more affordable and accessible to everyone, collaborate more to advance the required technologies to enable the metaverse, democratise data, and balance the benefits and risks of technology. By addressing these challenges, we can ensure that technology continues to benefit humanity in the healthcare industry.”

Ahmed Ezz, Senior Director, GI & Metabolic, NewBridge Pharmaceuticals

Innovation is at the heart of the pharmaceutical industry. It is not just about adding to the process, but it is a significant investment that should bring efficiency, cost savings, and positive patient outcomes. Bringing new drugs to the market requires a long journey, starting from the research and development phase, all the way to the final stages of product registration and distribution. Throughout this journey, pharmaceutical companies are integrating innovative technologies to make it more effective and efficient.

He said, “One of the most notable examples of innovation in the pharmaceutical industry is the incorporation of Artificial Intelligence in the drug design process. The use of AI has allowed companies to design molecules that target specific receptors with high precision. This approach has proved effective in the design of vaccines and other medications, enabling the development of more effective drugs with fewer side effects.”

“In the clinical phase, decentralised clinical trials have emerged as a new trend, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. With the use of AI and mobile applications, patients can now participate in clinical trials from their homes, reducing the need for physical visits to research centers. This approach has improved patient adherence to treatment and made it easier for pharmaceutical companies to monitor patients and collect data”, he added.

In the regulatory phase, innovative technologies are used to develop the regulatory file of the product, which is used for registration by regulatory frameworks. The use of AI and digitalisation has made this process more efficient, reducing the time and cost required for registration.

“Information technology has also played an essential role in the supply chain of pharmaceutical products. With the use of digital tracking systems, companies can now manage the supply chain more effectively, ensuring that counterfeit products do not enter the market. These systems also help companies track product usage, which can inform healthcare systems on disease prevalence and trends”, he concluded.

Shijin Prasad, Head of Information & Communications Technology, Cure Medical Centers Pharmacy & Al Nokhba Medical Center

In this digital era, many new technologies are being used, such as big data analytics, AI, RPA, and IoT. These technologies are playing a major role in the future of healthcare and pharmacy. Pharmacies are utilising these technologies in several ways to provide better treatments. Precision medicine, remote monitoring, data analytics, digital therapy, and automated patient safety monitoring systems are some of the ways in which pharmacies are using these technologies.

He averred, “Precision medicine involves developing personalised medicine using big data analytics and AI based on genetics and other factors. This approach is cost-effective and reduces the time and complexity involved in traditional medicine. Telemedicine and remote monitoring record the real-time health status of a patient remotely using wearable devices and mobile apps. This approach helps to provide healthcare to remote areas where it is not easily accessible.”

Data analytics involves analysing the huge amount of healthcare data collected by pharmacies using AI and RPA to develop new treatments. Digital therapy is a software-driven intervention that helps treat mental disorders, diabetes, chronic pain, and other conditions. Pharmacy companies are focusing more on digital therapy because it provides better outcomes and solutions for doctors and patients.

He concluded by saying, “Automated drug safety monitoring systems use RPAs or robotic automation to collect and monitor data related to drug safety events. Pharmacy companies use this data to develop treatments that ensure patient safety. These technologies are helping pharmacies to be more patient-centric, cost-effective, and provide personalized treatments. They are also helping the healthcare industry to improve the quality of healthcare and treatments. Therefore, the role of technology in the pharmacy and healthcare industry cannot be overstated.”

Dr Mohamed Fayek, Director, Healthcare and Life Science, EFESO Consulting

The pharmaceutical industry is a critical sector that is currently facing a range of challenges, including financial crises, epidemics, and sustainability concerns. In this context, it is essential to emphasise that sustainable regression is the ultimate goal of any organisation, including those in the life sciences or pharma industry.

He stated, “The journey of manufacturing in the pharma industry starts with research and development (R&D), where sustainability is a crucial component. By considering sustainability in R&D, companies can improve efficiency and reduce costs, which ultimately leads to more sustainable innovation. Companies like Pfizer, JNJ, and Lab have already invested heavily in innovation to maximise benefits and minimise resources.”

Moreover, digital solutions play a critical role in enhancing sustainability in the pharmaceutical industry. Working with tech companies to develop innovative drug delivery solutions can significantly reduce costs and enhance sustainability. Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) is another example of a digital solution that can improve patient adherence and outcomes, making the industry more patient-centered.

Patient access to medication is also a critical aspect of sustainability in the pharma industry. Companies need to have strategies for increasing access to medication and making it more affordable, working through collaboration and partnerships with different organisations.

Concluding the session he averred, “Sustainability is a concept that can be integrated into different stages of the pharma industry, from manufacturing processes to go-to-market solutions. Decision-makers need to think twice before making any decisions without considering sustainability and the maximum benefits it can bring to future generations. Focusing on innovation is also essential to achieve sustainability by reducing costs and increasing efficiency.”

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