Dr. Rishi Mohan Bhatnagar
From bringing drugs of higher quality into the market faster to ensuring safer transport of drugs and better feedback monitoring, IoT is turning into a vital ally for pharma companies.
The global Internet of Things (IoT) healthcare market is projected to grow from $41.22 billion in 2017 to $158.07 billion by 2022, at a CAGR of 30.8 percent. These are impressive figures and they reveal the extent to which IoT is getting entrenched in this crucial vertical. But beyond these numbers lies a story of how IoT is bringing about a transformation in the way pharma products are being conceptualised, manufactured, transported and consumed.
A connected technology regime that spans manufacturing, distribution and end-use aids in monitoring plants, gives more control over quality, eliminates wastage and counterfeiting, and gives pharma companies more options on the compliance front. The whole framework relies on unhindered connectivity with sensors, devices storage and analysis platforms being bound together to permit data flow.
Though pharma companies can do much more with IoT, these are some of the areas where IoT can make a significant difference to their business.
Pharma companies are observing that manufacturing costs for branded drugs can be nearly 30 percent of revenues, while, by comparison, R&D costs account for only 15 percent of revenues. Drug production flows are often complex depending on a series of variables. Production managers have to monitor more than 200 variables to ensure product and ingredient homogeneity across batches. Without the availability of detailed data, the process of figuring out a problem can turn into a time consuming and laborious affair.
The continuous unified flow of data from an IoT implementation allows for continuous process improvement, with the development of models for refining data to derive vital insights. Not only can alerts be raised if variables exceed certain set parameters, but batches can be compared to see how different each one is. This allows pharma entities to derive the extent of standardisation across batches, which is a critical aspect from a manufacturing perspective.
Other benefits accrued could be better inventory management and lower equipment downtime (due to proactive maintenance).
In the last few years, we have seen a spike in the frequency of inspections in the premises of various drug manufacturers. This has made companies invest in developing innovative practices that minimise human intervention at various production phases while logging critical data. With IoT, the industry can move away from archaic manual processes and data management techniques and be prepared for more stringent quality control frameworks deployed by regulators in India and abroad.
In case of sensitive medicines and vaccines, it becomes essential to monitor the ambient temperature of a container carrying them. Sensors can offer real-time monitoring of cases and containers and report instances of unfavorable modification of ambient environment. Transmitted data logged can be analysed to gain all kinds of insights leading to safer transport of drugs.
The pharma industry faces a challenge in making the drug development process more efficient. This means increasing productivity while keeping the costs under check. It also implies using relevant technologies to optimise the process. An IoT-enabled system in a clinical trial is a good way of addressing such requirements.
During a clinical trial, it is essential to maintain safety of subject while ensuring trial integrity. An IoT environment will help monitor patients more effectively, and use the data captured from the devices to highlight any adverse events or report positive effects. Thus, healthcare professionals can work with a system that promotes proactive management with insights throughout the healthcare chain.
The data made available through an IoT connected system can ensure greater collaboration within the pharma industry. Data could also be made available to regulators without having to browse through multiple logs maintained offline. Researchers and other stakeholders can work across data barriers or constraints imposed by geography or economic considerations.
With reduced production and better transit management practices, pharma companies can offer vital drugs at reduced prices to customers. Patient feedback can also be managed better as also the supply-demand balance.
Beyond these immediate benefits, the pharma sector can also rely on IoT to gather insights across the value chain to streamline it. An investment in IoT opens the door for all stakeholders to benefit. From bringing drugs of higher quality into the market faster to ensuring safer transport of drugs and better feedback monitoring, IoT is turning into a vital ally for pharma companies.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)