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Pharmaceutical operations: Preparing for the challenging times ahead

Pharmaceutical operations: Preparing for the challenging times ahead


The Covid-19 crisis is having an immense impact on every sector, damaging organisations of all sizes. That being said, while the pandemic is undoubtably far from over, there is finally a light at the end of tunnel, with positive signs of recovery appearing across the globe.
  • Author Company: Amaxa Pharma
  • Author Name: Vladimir Tkachenko
Editor: PharmiWeb Editor Last Updated: 14-Aug-2020

The Covid-19 crisis is having an immense impact on every sector, damaging organisations of all sizes. That being said, while the pandemic is undoubtably far from over, there is finally a light at the end of tunnel, with positive signs of recovery appearing across the globe.

Deaths and infection rates across Europe are significantly decreasing, global restrictions are continuing to ease and a UK team has recently discovered that dexamethasone is a viable treatment for the sickest patients. Meanwhile, scientists across the world continue to mobilise and work towards a vaccine at an unprecedented pace.

It is clear that the efforts of the pharmaceutical industry have been critical throughout this crisis, with industry leaders rallying to enable the supply of key medicines and responding swiftly to the changing times.

In light of this – as we move away from this overwhelming gloom – now is the perfect time for reflection to understand the ways we have approached this pandemic and the lessons we have learnt to ensure that the pharmaceutical industry can respond quickly to increasing demand. With talks of a second wave on the horizon, it has never been more imperative to reflect, learn and, ultimately, plan for the challenging times ahead.


Novel virus crisis

Perhaps the most significant problem that scientists and pharmaceutical experts have faced over the past few months is that Covid-19 is a novel virus. While similar in ways to the viruses that caused the SARS outbreak of 2002-2004 and the MERS outbreak that began in 2012, Covid-19 has proven to be much more transmissible, with its presence in the vast majority of countries now confirmed.

Essentially, those charged with coming up with effective treatments or a vaccine have had to start from scratch, while contending with the various restrictions brought about by global lockdowns. Then again, there have been a number of success stories that underline the vital work that the pharmaceutical industry does and it is these that should serve as examples of how to approach the future.


Swift responses to the changing times

The most important thing to note here is that the speed and collaboration of the pharmaceutical industry have been hugely beneficial in combatting the significant challenges brought about by Covid-19.

Many organisations have installed crisis-response command centres to swiftly manage this relentless demand and bring stability amid uncertain times. In fact, as soon as the existence of Covid-19 was confirmed, the scientific community has mobilised to come up with ways to protect against the virus at a speed never seen in our lifetimes.

The pace of developments since then has continued to increase, with teams around the world working furiously to develop an effective vaccine. As far as viable treatments are concerned, the evidence of remdesivir reducing patient recovery times shows significant promise, and the discovery of dexamethasone – a cheap, widely available steroid in use since the 1960s – in improving survival rates has led to the UK government approving it for immediate use.

Swift responses such as these will need to continue to ensure we are successful in combatting Covid-19. Any future pandemic will only be beaten if pharmaceutical companies, experts, scientists and governments are willing to spring into action and work together for the common good.


Data mastery

When it comes to identifying the right treatments and approaches in a future pandemic, data mastery will play a leading role. Of course, data already provides the basis for the treatment of many diseases. Before a new medicine is approved for use, huge amounts of data from clinical studies will be examined and compared, before a final decision is made. However, there is more we can do to make data analytics processes sharper.

This is where emerging technologies such as AI and machine learning will make their mark. By automating data analytics and applying AI capabilities where possible, the management of large datasets becomes considerably easier, and insights can be drawn from this information much more readily. Finding ways to conquer data – coupled with the aforementioned collaboration between experts – will revolutionise the industry.


Supply and demand

While reaction times did significantly increase throughout the pandemic, at the beginning of the crisis, many nations and their health services were underprepared when it came to having the right equipment and infrastructure in place to respond quickly.

To prevent struggles with supply and demand becoming a major issue in a future outbreak, the pharmaceutical industry needs to be prepared to act quickly to scale up production of key resources – such as specialised testing kits and new medicines as soon as they are needed. Maintaining healthy stockpiles of established treatments is also key as there is always a possibility that an older medicine might be effective against a novel disease – as has been seen with dexamethasone.


Regulatory efficiency

Finally, the pharmaceutical industry, by necessity, is a heavily regulated one. While the challenges of the pandemic have created a need for regulatory processes to be expedited in many cases, lockdown restrictions have made it more difficult for this to be done efficiently. For these problems to be ironed out, the pharmaceutical industry and the agencies responsible for regulation need to work more closely together to ensure responses can be better coordinated in future.

The need for rapid action to tackle Covid-19 has underlined how increased flexibility and efficiency are the name of the game, both in terms of regulatory approval for new treatments, and logistical considerations that ensure that medicines can be manufactured and delivered in double-quick time.

Ultimately, to ensure we are prepared for a second wave, we must reflect, review and improve on our current approach and help the pharmaceutical industry respond quickly amid times of uncertainty. All in all, innovation, efficiency and collaboration are what will help the pharmaceutical industry get the better of the next pandemic.