Harnessing Big Data for the Pharmaceutical Industry

Every industry is seeking ways to harness and use Big Data effectively including the pharmaceutical industry. According to Nick de Cent of EyeforPharma, at issue for the health care industry is the availability of “open data” that can be easily accessed in a shareable format. McKinsey claims that approximately $400 in annual value for consumers and companies can be gained from the effective use of open data in the pharmaceutical and health fields.

The Institute of Medicine published a discussion paper in 2012 concerning open, or liquid, data. Also in 2012, research in the United Kingdom showed that unnecessary costs could have been saved through earlier use of Big Data for research into prescribed statins. The Open Data Institute reported an average of £27 million a month of unnecessary expenditure on two proprietary statins by the National Health Service in England in 2013.

The use of data in clinical trials could be significant. A reduction in cycle time of 10 percent can save $250 million during phases 2 and 3 of development according to Vice President of Global Patient Advocacy at Calgene Corporation. Providing liquid data requires changes in regulations concerning data usability, governance, and health care financing all of which have political implications. Additionally, pharmaceutical companies are protective of their intellectual property, and individuals demand privacy and protection of personal information.

Despite such hesitance, Ben Elton, the Managing Director of Global Life Sciences Management Consulting at Accenture, states that companies are understanding more about the regulatory aspects of Big Data. The desire and need for innovation are increasing pressure for industry changes. One problem is that health care regulation is not consistent. Different parts of the world have stricter mandates concerning the use and collection of data. However, technology firms are creating systems that meet regulatory cyber security regulations and that facilitate disaster recovery. Technology giants such as Android, Apple, and Google are investing in new technologies to enable data to be coded for use, and analytics companies are racing into the market. The US Food and Drug Administration has provided guidelines for digital health systems to encourage their use with the proviso that services avoid limiting consumer choice or dictating practices to physicians.

The changes required will take time, and a modular approach will be necessary to address each market; however, according to Elton, change and innovations are already under way and gaining momentum.

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