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The Pharmacy Industry In The Post-COVID World


When Swine Flu came, skeptics saw a catastrophe that would bring the world's economy to its knees. Forward-thinkers saw an opportunity to be part of the solution and cashed on it. The current pandemic is not any different; the pharmacy industry can reap the Covid-19 windfall
  • Author Name: Jacob Maslow
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  • Author Telephone: +19175952018
Editor: Jacob Maslow Last Updated: 24-Aug-2020

We are in the middle of a once-in-a-century crisis that has spread across the world in a matter of months. The pharmacy industry has moved quickly into a crisis mindset, managing people's implications, protecting the business, and trying to be part of the solution.

Two critical uncertainties will frame how the industry will emerge post-COVID. The first one is the depth and the duration of Covid-19 disruptions. The other fact is how bold the stakeholders are, and their willpower and ability to align with the new world order.

In a favorable bookend scenario of hope, we could see a short sharp contraction followed by a rapid return to normalcy. The behavior of retail stakeholders - pharmacists, doctors, and patients - will change significantly, even in this scenario. Expect fast updates in telemedicine and digital health along with enlightened regulatory actions, openness, and new funding. At the minimum, we will see a higher risk sensitivity leading to an increased focus on the resilience of today's global and geographical vulnerable value chains.

At the other end of the spectrum is volatilization characterized by prolonged economic disruptions and associated health crises, with the pharmacy industry struggling to respond effectively. With governments worldwide focusing on vaccines for the virus, there will be delays in approval of other equally essential medicines. Multiple stakeholders will be compelled to adopt a survival approach that may further hamper the recovery.

For far too long, the pharmacy industry has been labeled as slow to respond to environmental changes. The Covid-19 pandemic has come with an almost equal share of woes and opportunities for the industry.

On a positive note, the industry can take advantage of the demand changes - panic buying and induced demand - caused by the pandemic. Between March 13th-21st alone, there was a 65% spike in demand for prescription pills for asthma. If the industry does not respond appropriately to these changes, the resulting shortage in supply could be catastrophic. The long-time effect, especially post-COVID, is that there will be a sharp fall in demand for these drugs since people will be having them stocked in their drawers.

Already planned clinical tests for various medicines have had to be postponed, scheduled conferences canceled, and raw materials barred from reaching pharmaceutical factories. Moving forward, the industry has to consider embracing digital transformation and contingency measures like sourcing raw materials locally.

The global recession has seen stakeholders struggling to get their products across borders. This has become an eye-opener, underscoring the necessity to consider costs from the perspective of location risks, and not just the conventional landing cost metrics.

In this environment, survivors in the pharmacy industry have to consider these three actions:

  • They must understand and align to different scenarios, including their planning scenario between the two possibilities.
  • They need to consider a portfolio of no-regret actions. 
  • They also have to identify indicators and trigger-points to track and stay ahead of the evolving crisis.

Perhaps the most significant takeaway for the pharmacy industry is the vitality of integrating technology into processes. Covid-19 has seen the world re-imagining the whole concept of healthcare provision. The future may not see patients having to go to hospitals every time they fall ill. The doctor's medicine and his magical tools will be going to patients through electronic devices. 

With technology being core in many operations, there will be ease of moving towards a mobile workforce. Covid-19 has taught pharmaceutical industries that working from home is not a bad idea after all. What this will mean is that the demand for skillsets will shift from manual to technical talents. Post-COVID, the industry will be keener in sourcing personnel who can operate and program the new technologies.

Thinking of the impact of Covid-19 on the future of the pharmacy industry in its entirety, we would say it is a blessing in disguise. Those who will identify opportunities amid this pandemic will reap big.