As we’ve looked across numerous industries analyzing digital strength, it’s become more apparent that there isn’t necessarily one standard definition. Even though everyone has the same goal, they’re all calling plays from a different playbook. Whereas it’s more obvious with an industry like retail to determine what digital transformation looks like, for an industry like pharmaceuticals, the vision is much less apparent.
In comparison to other verticals, the pharmaceuticals industry is digitally immature. When looking at the Digital Strength Index, these companies score on the low end of the spectrum overall. This standing is also seen with Trajectory, the metric which measures the correlation between digital consumer interactions and overall revenues of a business over time. However, the rules of the game are different when you’re literally dealing with life and death. Because of the nature of the business as well as regulations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), innovation will continue to move forward but at a much slower pace.
As an example, the digital Social presence for these companies is almost non-existent. The reason being is because they would open themselves up to adverse event reporting and legal liability. The risk/reward for this channel can be hard to justify. From 2005 to 2015, Big Pharma was fined more than $30 billion, the majority of which was a result of promoting drugs for uses other than those approved by the FDA.
Even though Big Pharma could be considered digitally nascent, they just have a different interpretation of what digital transformation means. In reality, Big Pharma, with their billions of dollars, is one of digital’s most progressive and innovative industries. But, similar to the lengthy duration of the drug testing lifecycle, the benefits of these digital efforts have yet to be realized.
Nonetheless, there is a digital wave on the horizon which is pushing these companies to go “beyond the pill.” Drugs will continue to be the core business model, but digital technologies are starting to shift the paradigm from reactive to proactive; i.e., from a sickness-based model to a preventative model. By making digital a priority, the system will become not only more efficient but more effective, allowing Big Pharma to focus on selling outcomes, not pills.
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