How digital technologies can help drug makers to fight against Coronavirus?

When every country is fighting in their own way to stop the spread of coronavirus across the world. The pharmaceutical industries and medical institutes played a vital part to fight against Covid-19, supplying life-saving drugs that help the patient to recover. Alongside this, they are working on new treatments that can completely cure the patients fighting the coronavirus. However, the pandemic imposed some severe challenges for drugmakers like disruptions in the supply chain. This actually exposed the sector’s vulnerability and their need for greater resilience. 

While, the EU, Japan, and the US are leading the research and development of the vaccine. India and China are their biggest help as the major producers of active pharmaceutical ingredients – the raw materials used for making drugs. They account for 80% of the chemicals used by drugmakers in Europe. Alone, India accounts for 30% of the global exports of generic drugs. 

Indian pharma and medical institute have fallen by 20-30% in their drug-making capacity due to the national lockdown that interrupted the chain of transport and shipping, a labor shortage, as well as the migrant workers returned to their villages. Medical supplies also faced a major impact due to the shut of manufacturing industries. While tensions are erupting in the countries with the shortage of essential drugs and medical supplies. India banned exports of 26 pharmaceutical ingredients as well as their formulations used in generic drugs. 

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Therefore, drug makers are experimenting with new technologies to overcome the outbreak of the virus and their effect on manufacturing. For example, Novartis is working with Amazon web services(AWS), to digitally transform manufacturing and supply chains. But obviously more is needed to be done. 

India is using three strategies based on technologies helping the pharma industry and offering a way out of the crisis. It could be replicated around the world to help global drug makers moving digitally. Further, this transformation will come in as an advantage post the pandemic, especially for the pharma industry- which is always in need.

Indian pharmaceutical industry imports around 85% of the drug-making ingredients from china. This clearly shows India’s reliance on China for active pharmaceutical ingredients for some antibiotics and vitamins. Therefore, there is a need for boosting productivity and efficiency in Indian homes – which will make ingredients cost-competitive and even helps to reduce the dependency on China.

The first step to do this is to use digital technologies for quality control with the help of automation, robotics, and advance analysis. This can actually increase the productivity level by about 30-40% with fewer manual errors.

For example, Cipla API manufacturing in Kurkumbh, India – they are fully using digital technologies to handle their supply chains. This includes the digital management information system, the use of virtual technologies to train employees, maintaining the material flow. This transformation is proved fruitful for them. By May 2020, Cipla was one of the four Indian companies that signed a licensing agreement with the U.S. based Gilead Sciences for manufacturing and supply of the medicine Remedisivir.

As India lags behind China in terms of export – it can be dealt with with the help of Digital technologies. India should embed itself more in the Global value chain rather than depending on domestic demand. In the research, it has been shown that investing in IT companies can boost the demand for pharma firms. For Indian pharma firms who invest more in digital technologies have seen an export make 45% of sales as compared to the firms less investing in digital technologies make only 28% of sales from their exports. Digital manufacturing helps to raise productivity which gives greater results in exports, and digital platforms help to look after new markets and perform digital marketing activities. While maintaining inventory digitally enable access to customer data and maintain customer relationship more proficiently.

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Digital technology can also help with research and development in the pharma industry. These technologies can reduce the cost of development, reduce the timeline, optimize drug and product design, and enable faster even more efficient than earlier. For Example, Lupin – a Mumbai based drug-making company which is using data science and analytics for R&D, manufacturing, and supply chain.

Covid-19 has accelerated the need for digital technologies in various sectors. While some had already adopted, some are looking forward to it by carrying out online training.

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