The scale of pharmaceutical counterfeiting can be staggering to behold – whether in terms of the number of cases, the financial incentives or the economic loss to the legitimate industry.
Then again, is it really so surprising? This is an industry whose value in the UK and worldwide is massive and constantly expanding further. Therefore, there are rich pickings for those who seek gain from their parasitical activities.
Pharma is also in the throes of what the apocryphal Chinese proverb defines as “interesting times” – for which, read challenging and disruptive.
A succession of patent cliffs for several well-established drugs that previously made successful companies very rich have come into effect, while biotechnological production is gearing up and becoming more competitive.
Thus, revenue sources are becoming diffuse; less focus on big blockbuster drugs and more upon a multiplicity of products produced at smaller scale for a more defined market.
This is stoked by and in turn fuels the growing consumer demand for bespoke solutions. Which determines an altogether less homogenous approach to production; one that requires a greater agility than before (a fact noted by the commentators in our main feature).
Switching between products has potential implications for downtime, contamination and productivity. There is also the question of how adaptable technology may be in coping with a variety of product.
Automated processes coupled with digitalisation is essential to overcome such issues and maintain the reliability on which pharma’s output and reputation depends.
Along with the philosophy of investing in efficiency and life cycle rather than purchase price, there is also a growing, if seemingly paradoxical, interest in disposability. In fact, these approaches are if anything complementary, recognising that both works to support the goals of reduced intervention and cost and the maintenance of good hygiene and fast turnarounds.