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Top 100 pharmaceutical companies


New survey examines impact of e-technologies on the pharmaceutical industry

By Editor on May 24, 2001

The survey, which examined the adoption and impact of e-technology implementations across the industry, included input from more than 100 senior managers from 42 companies (including each of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies) in 12 countries.
Eighty percent (80%) of the interviewees were at the vice president level or above. Almost 40% were either responsible for e-business activities in their organizations or were members of e-leadership teams. The rest of the group included business strategists, regional directors and functional directors whose positions are significantly affected by e-activities.

The study was conducted in the first quarter of this year through a series of broad- ranging discussions with participants and was augmented with secondary information, including business reports, proprietary databases and other publicly available sources. Discussions were tailored to elicit information on three major topics:

  • Vision Participants opinions of how e-initiatives are currently affecting and will change both their companies and their industry. What opportunities are there for gaining competitive advantage?
  • Reality How far companies have gone in implementing their vision and what initiatives have been launched to support this?
  • Organizing for success Organizational structures they have established in support of their e-initiatives, how e-initiatives are funded, how success is measured and what internal and external obstacles companies believe are impeding the progress of their e-initiatives.

The study’s organizers estimate that the industry has invested between 0.5% and 1% of sales (approximately $2 billion) on e-business over the past year with mixed results. According to the authors, e-activities are being institutionalized in most western pharmaceutical companies and have demonstrated improvements in efficiency.

Among the US and European companies participating in the survey, 77% reported having a separate group responsible for e-business. In addition, all of the companies interviewed were assessing how best to exploit the potential of e-business for their organizations, and all have established the basic infrastructure necessary to leverage e-business opportunities.

Many survey participants reported significant efficiency gains from their current e-initiatives. For example, many companies reported as much as a 40% reduction in the time it takes to move from finishing clinical trials to submitting dossiers for regulatory approval.

However, the most optimistic expectations of e-enabled technologies stimulating a radical change in industry’s business models have not been met. In fact, a number of significant projects have reputedly failed, including the launch of a new e-CRM system for one major pharmaceutical company at an estimated cost of $200 million.

Hesitant about the value propositions of most e-health ventures, the study results indicate the industry has by and large held back from embracing the more radical elements of e-technology. Instead, pharmaceutical companies have focused on some of the more basic opportunities afforded by e-business. As a whole, pharmaceutical investment in e-initiatives has concentrated on a series of incremental operational initiatives that have not produced the radical change first anticipated.

A significant number (25%) of participants in the study indicated they expect e-technologies to transform the industry. This group believes this change will force pharmaceutical companies to move closer to their customers and create new service-based offerings.

According to the study’s sponsors, these companies tend to focus on two types of e-initiatives:

  • Efficiency improvements achieved by e-enabling existing processes, such as the use of e-procurement marketplaces and electronic data capture (EDC) for clinical trials, and
  • Revenue growth through Web site and prescriber initiatives designed to build awareness, promote compliance and support marketing relationships.

The study found one reason the industry is moving so slowing toward e-adoption is the limited return on investment (ROI) thus far. But the majority of respondents (48%) believe sustainable competitive advantage is possible through the use of e-initiatives.

Nearly 70% of survey participants agree the biggest impact of e-business will be on pharmaceutical sales and marketing. That belief is reflected by substantial investment in e-sales and marketing initiatives. All western pharmaceutical companies surveyed have product Web sites, most are conducting e-detailing pilots and many are exploring e-CRM as a means of unifying other initiatives.

Most companies see the opportunity to improve their customer relationships as one of the biggest benefits of e-business adoption strategies. The study reveals that most companies are focusing on touchpoint alignment to ensure consistency and coordination between Web sites, the sales force, promotional materials and call centers.

One third of all participants in the survey reported their companies are currently conducting e-detailing pilots and are hoping to cut costs by as much as 50% and improve physician access. The remaining two-thirds believe that the full promise of
e-detailing is not likely to be met.

Most product-specific Web sites, according to participants, are failing to attract a high volume of usage and stickiness. In addition, the success of disease management sites remains in question since, according to respondents, demonstrating return from these sites remains difficult.

In spite of many of the current difficulties, more than 80% of survey participants believe e-technologies will significantly change the way the pharmaceutical industry markets to physicians and patients.

Most companies also have initiated e-based improvements in their supply chains. All respondents cited the supply chain as the area where e-implementation is most likely to bring cost benefits. Participants indicated more dramatic change is expected with the establishment of online marketplaces for both procurement and sales.

Respondents indicated that the main benefit of online procurement is purchasing compliance to standardized procedures. Almost 75% of the savings that we derive from e-procurement comes from purchasing compliance rather than from inventory controls or competitive tendering, said one interviewee.

Survey results revealed that most pharmaceutical companies have not made significant investments in e-manufacturing initiatives. Many believe the system is already efficient and offers little promise for return on investment. The companies who are exploring
e-manufacturing are focusing on three distinct areas of the process:

  • Uniting the disparate stages of manufacturing, both geographically and in time;
  • Managing automated equipment remotely; and
  • Using e- technologies to coordinate the manufacturing activities of their plants, thereby creating a linked process.

The study’s authors predict these initiatives will bring large reductions in cycle time and decreased work-in-progress inventory over the next five years.

Most of the pharmaceutical companies participating in the study are turning to the Web to accelerate clinical trials. Nearly 90% believe the clinical trials process will be radically transformed over the next five years. Despite this optimism however, only 13% expect changes within development to have a significant impact on the bottom line.

Transformation is occurring in two areas: electronic data capture for clinical trials and online patient recruitment. One senior manager pointed out: The amounts spent on clinical trials are so large that even a 5% cost savings is an extremely strong driver for change.

Most survey participants reported testing EDC systems in pilot projects, typically comparing systems from several EDC vendors in a variety of trial conditions. Some of the early adopters have concluded their pilots and are moving to company-wide rollouts. One top-ten global pharmaceutical company has set a target that more than 50% of its trials will be using EDC by the end of this year.

Survey respondents regard the regulatory process as the area least likely to change over the medium term. Nearly 60% of interviewees expect little change to existing processes. Participants expressed frustration that although the regulatory process is an obvious candidate for having e-technologies applied, the regulatory agencies are not providing sufficient guidance on what is needed. Some companies, including Boehringer Ingelheim and CDC Solutions, are developing electronic platforms to support future specifications of submissions as the International Conference on Harmonization (ICH) sets them out.

Interviewees agree that the U.S. industry is ahead of Europe in developing its e-initiatives. European adoption of e-technologies has been more ad hoc, with investment in e-initiatives being driven by individual e-champions. Respondents see Europe learning from the United States from both its successes and its failures and expect Europe to catch up in the near future.

Organizing for success

More than 60% of the pharmaceutical companies surveyed are managing their e-initiatives from the corporate head office. The rest are managing their e-strategies through a decentralized system, through a separate e-venture or in an ad hoc manner. Several interviewees admitted their companies do not have an e-strategy with which to manage their e-initiatives.

No matter how e-business is managed, in more than half of those surveyed, funding is provided from business units or local regions rather than by the corporate center. Almost all of the participants in the study, including those responsible for e-business, said they did not know how much their organization as a whole was spending on e-initiatives.
The survey authors suggest this fragmented approach explains the incremental and operational focus of most of the e-initiatives instituted to date.

Staff resistance to change was cited as the biggest internal barrier to the success of e-initiatives. One senior executive commented: The institutional challenges are huge many of the core processes that have created growth and profits in the past are the ones that must now change.

The second most significant barrier to e-implementations, as identified by respondents, is the difficulty in measuring the success of projects. ROI was cited as the most widely used metric, but its benefit is not always accepted as a valid assessment of the true value of e-projects.

Technical capabilities, necessary infrastructure and funding were not seen as obstacles.

The survey identified three characteristics that differentiate between companies starting to feel a real impact from e-business from the rest of the pack:

  • A clear vision for the future linked to an immediate drive for change;
  • A portfolio approach that balances strategic and operational initiatives along the value chain; and
  • An active desire to learn and to change the organization.

The survey’s authors contend the widespread use and distribution of e-knowledge through pilot projects appears to be the best route to promoting change. One survey participant summed it up by saying: e is not a matter of technology, it is a matter of mindset. If you can get this right then you can get some competitive advantage.

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Top 100 pharmaceutical companies

Top 100 pharmaceutical companies

Top 100 pharmaceutical companies

The survey, which examined the adoption and impact of e-technology implementations across the industry, included input from more than 100 senior managers from 42 companies (including each of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies) in 12 countries. Eighty percent (80%) of the interviewees were at the vice president level or above. Almost 40% were either responsible for e-business
SOURCE: Top 100 pharmaceutical companies Top 100 pharmaceutical companies

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