Disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), big data and blockchain will impact the pharmaceutical industry, not only by helping to add value in terms of personalized treatment for patients, but also to counteract the unsustainability of skyrocketing drug prices, says GlobalData.
Prescription drug prices, particularly in the US, have been skyrocketing over the past decade at a significantly higher rate than inflation. One of the reasons for soaring drug prices is the fact that the cost of drug development has been rising significantly and drug developers are struggling to achieve the return on their investments. The average timeline for a drug to be developed from discovery phase to market launch is about 15 years, and the total number of new molecular entities (NMEs) commercialized per year does not match the extraordinary R&D cost for the company.
One of the most time-consuming phases in the process of drug development is the discovery phase, which takes four to five years on average. Identifying promising drug targets is one of the biggest challenges and this is the most crucial phase, where the right decisions have to be made about whether to proceed through to clinical trials.
Luckily, the highly developed AI programs now have the increasing capacity to delve into big data, identify patterns, and generate algorithms to explain them.
Valentina Gburcik, PhD, Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disease Director at GlobalData, says: “These programs can help researchers generate more accurate hypotheses faster, making the drug discovery process less expensive and more effective. In addition, the database of electronic medical records and public health data can be analyzed to identify hidden patterns that can lead to a quick identification of potential molecular targets for a disease.”
There are currently over 100 companies that are applying AI algorithms and predictive analytics to healthcare, with some large companies, such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and IBM Watson, leading the way.
Gburcik continues: “Blockchain could be a platform for sharing electronic health records between various health organizations in a secure way, which would further facilitate research and speed up the drug development process. Furthermore, there is great potential for using this technology in pharmaceutical supply chain, medical billing, and anonymized patient record transmission.”
An important application of blockchain is through so-called ‘smart contracts’ where a researcher would get permission to collect real-time data during the medical treatment of a patient in a secure way, while the patient could receive a payment for their participation.
Robomed Network, represents one of the early decentralized platforms that mark a new era of the intersection between blockchain and the healthcare space. It provides cost-effective medical care through its smart contract, a digital token system of healthcare service providers and patients.
“This significantly accelerates clinical trials and data management, further contributing to cuts in the timeline and cost of drug production,” Gburcik concludes.