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Packaging decisions you make matter more now to consumers who are taking healthcare into their own hands—for themselves and for those they care for. Are you up to the challenge of infusing innovation into your pharmaceutical products?

Dan Balan, a disruptive thinker and an advocate for the creative destruction of the pharmaceutical industry, shared six driving forces for pharmaceutical market success during his keynote speech at Pharma Expo last November in Chicago. He shared similar advice for food and beverage market success during his keynote speech at the 2014 Global Food & Beverage Packaging Summit in July, also in Chicago. And at the upcoming Pack Expo East (Feb. 16-18; Philadelphia), Balan, who is the president of business consultancy Fastraqq, will explain how to “Get the Supply Chain right first!” on Mon., Feb. 16, 9:30 – 10:30 a.m.

Here, Balan shares his insights into the challenges for pharmaceutical packagers in an exclusive interview with Packaging Digest.

What are the challenges facing the pharmaceutical industry?

Balan: The pharmaceutical industry is challenged by a phalanx of forces. They are a multi-generational workforce, alternative forms of healing, healthcare costs rising faster than GDP [gross domestic product], work life expanding and the growing market for nutraceuticals. Taken together, these forces are tearing at the traditional pharmaceutical fabric. We are living in a digital world of seamless connection and instant communication that accelerates change even further. There is a creative destruction that is imminent in the pharmaceutical industry.

What are the six drivers of market success?

Balan: The six drivers of market success must be looked at simultaneously in the planning horizon of the drug and in the lifespan of the disease. They are:

1. The discovery process;

2. The purpose of the drug itself;

3. The domain of availability;

4. The delivery trajectory from formulation to mass production;

5. The distribution of the drug itself; and

6. The decline at the end of the lifecycle.

Why do we need a new pharmaceutical paradigm?

Balan: The entrenched pharmaceutical pattern maps drug to disease and dysfunction. It was more about curing the sickness than enhancing wellness. This is not the modus operandi for most drug companies. The spirit of the times is a proactive approach to human wellbeing. The new frame of thought has to consider the changing global dynamics and the driving forces, which are aimed at reducing healthcare costs and improving productivity.

Why do you suggest that the discovery process be torn down?

Balan: The traditional drug discovery process is long, linear and resource intensive. It takes a minimum of three to nine years for a drug to traverse from initial formulation to mass production. It is very much a crap shoot for companies, given the emerging global zeitgeist of wellness, health and longevity. The critical question to ask is, how can we shrink the time at various stages: the time to discovery, the time to clinical trials, the time for new application and the time to launch the product. Mathematical modeling, search theory and simulations using predictive analytics are opening the drug discovery process to re-evaluation and re-engineering. The driving principle is simultaneously to evaluate go/no-go situations and to isolate the rogue molecules as fast as possible. The intent is to eliminate inefficiencies so that cost bleeding can be stemmed.

What are the problems in distribution and supply chains?

Balan: The biggest problems in the pharmaceutical industry are pilferage, counterfeiting, tampering, illegal drugs, fake prescriptions and phantom pharmacies. Manufacturers have to contend with unpredictable costs, as well as the potential for lawsuits. In a porous global economy, the biggest challenge is authentication from initial origins to final customer. There is now a greater need for traceability and trackability of goods. Supply chain consciousness must predominate a company’s core organizational culture.

Why are you challenging the very purpose of a drug?

Balan: What does a drug really do? Does it suppress the symptom, eliminate the causes for the disease, mitigate its severity or completely extirpate the disease itself? The food industry is pressing for declaration of ingredients as a way of knowing the very composition of the food. The same shift will gain full force in the pharmaceutical industry. We are asking what does each ingredient really do and how and can we ensure transparency of cause and effect?

You’ve mentioned your FRIDay initiative before. What is this and why is it crucial to innovation?

Balan: I coined the term FRIDay as an acronym for Functional Rotational Immersion Day. In my upcoming book on global economic transformation, I advocate 45 minutes every Friday for employees to go to another department and understand the underpinnings of their functions. This cross pollination will bring down organizational brick walls and cognitive silos to create freer dialogue. Further, the FRIDay initiative will build the common body of knowledge and a correlational literacy so needed to solve todays challenging problems.

© Interactive Pharm 2022

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