The pharma industry is taking the long view: Why we need more research
Health experts are warning that the opioid crisis is forcing the pharmaceutical industry to “take a long view” about how it uses research to improve its products and services.
The opioid crisis has caused an explosion in the number of prescriptions for opioids and other painkillers, as well as a sharp rise in overdose deaths.
In the first nine months of 2018, there were more than 9.5 million prescriptions for painkillers for the U.S., up from 6.4 million in 2017, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The rise in prescriptions for other drugs is also putting the spotlight on what has been dubbed the “new normal” for the pharmaceutical sector, with pharmaceutical companies having to look at how to get their products to patients faster, cheaper and more safely.
In recent years, many companies have focused on the idea of building more robust data systems, but there are concerns about how that will translate to improving their drugs and their products.
“This is an industry that has a lot of data and they are very focused on their own data,” said David Mather, a professor at Harvard Medical School.
“But they are also going to be looking at how can they use that data to better understand how they are using it to make better products and treatments for their patients.”
Mather pointed to a 2016 study in the journal Science that found that many of the drug companies that had spent millions of dollars on a large data set to improve their drug discovery processes were now relying on their data to make drugs more efficient.
Mather said there are several ways the industry can improve its drug discovery process.
It can take an existing drug and use that drug as the basis for another drug, Mather said.
The drug company can also look at what kinds of new drugs could be created and how they would work differently than existing drugs.
Or the drug company could look to the research of others, Maims said.
He said there’s no reason the drug industry can’t look at the best practices in how people are using opioids.
Maims, who directs the Center for the Study of Pain at Harvard University, has previously called for pharmaceutical companies to use “the long view.”
The drug industry is trying to be innovative, Mairs said, and it can be challenging to figure out how to use data to improve the way they do things.
Maim’s group is working on a report that will look at some of these questions, and he said he expects to publish it this year.
“There’s a long term shift,” Maim said.
“There’s going to have to be some kind of long term strategy for the industry to figure this out.”