Pharma industry 2020: Key emerging trends to watch for in the new year

trends in the pharmaceutical industry

The global pharmaceutical landscape is undergoing a massive overhaul with the advent of new technologies and cheaper and more efficient manufacturing techniques. This is paving the way for a whole new world of user-conscious drugs of the future. With big data, artificial intelligence, and a deeper understanding of the human body, the medical industry is on the verge of creating a deeper symbiotic relationship with modern tech unlike ever before. Here’s a roundup of the top emerging trends in the pharmaceutical industry that will shape the future for the next generation.

1.   Expansion of biosimilar markets

The legalities and procedural standards for biosimilars have always been a tricky affair – one that pharmaceutical regulatory agencies have been tackling since the very beginning. Add to this the ever-increasing demand for pharmaceuticals and public clamor for cheaper and more accessible drugs. This means the biosimilar market is destined to grow exponentially in the coming years.

Latin American countries are already ahead of the game by having their own R&D in place for producing and commercializing patent expired biologic drugs. The U.S. FDA expects to review more biosimilar applications in 2020 as 66 biologic U.S. patents are expiring within the next five years. This will eventually bolster the growth of the biosimilar segment.

2.   Utilizing big data and AI for preventive/predictive measures

With respect to pharmaceutical manufacturing, real-time responsive drugs are still evolving out of the nascent stage. Yet, manufacturers have already begun exploring their predictive quality techniques.

ISPE and its members are developing the roadmap to implement Pharma 4.0 model in the near future. Through complete digitization, Pharma 4.0 will connect the medical universe much more cohesively, creating new levels of transparency and speed for a digitalized plant floor. This will enable faster decision-making, and provide in-line and in-time control over business, operations, and quality.

Manufacturing floor downtime and product waste will soon be minimized utilizing robotic technology and artificial intelligence (AI). Also, single-use disposable solutions are gaining momentum replacing open transfer manufacturing techniques for safer drug storage and transport.

3.   Precision medicine

Precision medicine, also known as personalized medicine is a process of diagnosing and tailoring customized medicines and treatment based on an individual’s predicted response. While considered a niche, precision medicine is slowly gaining traction with more and more of such medicines passing the clinical stage and getting ready for the new-age market. In the last five years, investment in personalized medicine has doubled in size with experts suggesting its production to increase by approximately 33% by 2025.

4.   Mergers and acquisitions

Despite a global slowdown in most other sectors, M&A in the pharma industry remained vibrant throughout 2019. Add the prospect of an estimated growth from USD 1.2 trillion to USD 1.5 trillion, deal values are bound to increase as compared to the previous year. Some of the biggest companies in the industry are consolidating to elevate their position in a highly competitive environment and small and mid-sized companies are all set to be acquired for their innovative capabilities.

Going forward, two more factors significantly impact this deal flow:

  • Increased regulatory pressure from the governments to cut down drug prices and head-off potential monopolies.
  • Relentless encroachment pressure from the big technology giants such as Apple, Google, etc.

Therefore, signs of several mega-mergers/acquisitions amongst the top pharma companies are on the horizon already. Analysts are speculating that Bristol-Myers Squib will be acquired by Pfizer and Eli Lilly might be bought off by Merck etc. The strategy of M&A will be utilized as a key strategic weapon by big pharma companies in the foreseeable future and the pace of the deal-making is expected to be brisk as well in 2020.

5.   Legalization of medical marijuana for adult use

The United States and its affinity to kickstart global trends have become a norm, and the same can be stated with the legalization of adult-use or medical marijuana. And the state of Colorado proves to be an apt testament to this move.

Cannabis legalization that transpired in 2014 managed to generate USD 6.5 billion in cannabis sales and USD 1.02 billion in tax and revenue, thereby cementing the monetary value of this recreational and medical drug. Nation-wide legalization through legislatures or ballot measures can result in the creation of a billion-dollar business and job opportunities thereby opening new advents for investors and consumers alike.

The three key factors to consider as the states address either recreational or medical legalization this year:

  • In the past, marijuana legalization took place through the ballot box system but 2019 saw Illinois legalizing a projected USD 2 billion adult-use program through the legislature. This trend is expected to amplify in 2020.
  • Historically, the state laws on marijuana have reflected a patchwork of regulations riddled with moral and ethical taboo that has given rise to a tricky minefield of socio-economic and socio-political diaspora. Fortunately, the legal states have been the torchbearers in such instances where they’ve relied on educational propaganda and conversations to highlight the effectiveness.
  • Democratic governors of the Northeast states are trying to coordinate legalization efforts for adult-use. In October 2019, the governor of New York hosted a summit to begin a discussion on common approaches to licensing, taxation, minority and small-business participation, product potency among other aspects.

The cannabis industry’s legalization is potent with capabilities to set off a global domino effect that can dramatically alter various aspects of the pharmaceutical industry’s research – from Alzheimer’s, Crohn’s, cancer, and epilepsy to PTSD, anorexia, glaucoma, and multiple sclerosis – to various other diseases.

The new decade is bound to fuel some truly definitive trends in the pharmaceutical industries that will give rise to groundbreaking studies and equally riveting researching avenues. For an in-depth market analysis of global trends in the pharmaceutical industry, contact

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