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Pharma industry outlook for 2015

Despite economic pressures in healthcare markets and the wider global economy, the resilience shown by the pharmaceutical industry looks set to carry on through 2015. A recent report from Thomson Reuters indicates that global pharmaceutical sales topped $1 trillion last year, following the high-water mark of $980 billion recorded the year before, and this trend is expected to continue.

Industry analyst Jon Brett-Harris commented recently that “…with much of the conversation focused on the hurdles in the pharma space, it is reassuring to see positive developments and an encouraging future landscape.

One reason for optimism over prospects for the pharmaceutical industry is the reported suggestion that Big Pharma has learned how to ‘fail fast and cheap’. The number of new drugs being launched annually is growing, and lower success rates for early-phase candidates coupled with more stable success rates further down the pipeline support this view.

Marketing and market access

In the area of sales and marketing, one trend to watch is the growing interest in richer, more evidence-based content on the part of physicians:

Cost/benefit and long-term outcome information, detailed population data, comparison studies and added-value services have become interest areas for many stakeholders from pharmacists through to public healthcare agencies.” [eyeforpharma]

It’s a trend that we’ve watched with interest at BaseCase, given that our app development platform facilitates exactly this kind of value communication. The shift in interest, both to evidence-based marketing and e-detailing, is motivated perhaps in part by the growing skepticism from doctors about the traditional detailing approach. In 2015, innovation will be a key ingredient in ensuring access to the customer base:

45% to 50% of US physicians have restricted sales rep access, with oncologists and internists the least likely to take a face-to-face meeting…[There are also] increasing restrictions in many European countries for pharma reps.” [eyeforpharma]

Big gains in biotech

Biotechnology will continue to be a major growth area. Gilead’s top-selling HIV franchise is producing strong sales - as much as $1 billion in 2014 - fuelling investment in R&D that promises to rejuvenate their portfolio. This year, the US FDA will rule on whether to grant Celgene approval to market Revlimid as a front-line therapy, a decision that could substantially boost the product’s already strong annual sales of $5 billion. Other biotech companies to watch next year include BioMarin, Medivation and Regeneron.

Looking at the top-twenty, one company that’s outperforming predictions is Amgen. According to Eric Schmidt, of analysts Cowen and Co, “…they’re going to grow better and faster than anyone expected”. With an upswing in share price, revenue forecasts well above industry expectations, and a recent boost to dividends of 30%, the California-based group appears to be one of several biopharmaceutical companies in a strong position for the year ahead.