As price pressure mounts, pharma companies tap analytics to cut costs

Pharmaceutical companies, on account of price pressures and an intense regulatory gaze, are investing in data analytics and digital tools to sharpen their marketing focus and improve compliance. 

The move comes in the backdrop of price competitiveness in key markets and regulatory actions leading to adverse audit observations and warning letters.

“Businesses that digitalise will have a huge competitive advantage over others. At Cipla we are leveraging new-age technologies to drive efficiencies,” said Kedar Upadhye, Cipla's global chief financial officer.

The drugmaker has implemented manufacturing-execution systems to provide real-time feedback, automate material flows, capture cost information, and drive a paperless workflow, which reduces waste and scrap. 

“This was piloted this year at our Patalganga plant and we hope to roll out in other facilities. Our fully digitised Business to Business(B2B) supplier network system was implemented this year. The tool has been used to procure direct and indirect materials worth ~260 crore,” Upadhye said. 

Cipla is the first company in the Asia Pacific to upgrade to a cloud-based pharmacovigilance solution, which enables enhanced compliance and speeds up case reviews, he added. Pharmacovigilance refers to analysing information and data to prevent adverse reactions from drugs.

Digital and data analytics are bringing other benefits too. PwC partner Sujay Shetty says using data analytics is helping drugmakers to improve distribution, increase sales force productivity, and effectively manage working capital. For companies, cost optimisation is critical because growth is under pressure because of price erosion. Domestic sales growth slowed to 7 per cent year-on-year in May, the slowest in the last 17 months. In June, domestic market growth was 6.6 per cent.

GSK Pharmaceuticals are using the same tools to drive customer insight and improve engagement with doctors. “Under our new marketing model, we are accelerating the use of credible scientific data, data analytics, and digital tools across our operations. We increased the hiring of experts in digital technology and data analytics this year,” GSK Pharmaceuticals said in its latest annual report.

Zydus Cadila is using digital applications for improvements in supply chain process, product development, and sales and marketing. These help the company to plan sales. Another solution provides real-time visibility in project milestones because it helps in updating and tracking product development and launching initiatives across regions.

Upadhye says Cipla’s sales force uses closed loop marketing solutions, which analyse a physician’s preferences and arms the staff to deliver personalised content that closely matches a physician's interest. “This system has helped improve our interactions with around 1.2 million health care professionals across India,” he said.


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