5 pharma trends to watch in 2020

By | 3 minute read | March 6, 2020

IBM Watson Health wrapped up its first large industry event of the year, SCOPE 2020, and I have to say, it didn’t disappoint. Watson Health launched our latest offering in the clinical development space, IBM Study Advance, and my team had the opportunity to meet with hundreds of clients to discuss how smarter innovations using real-world data (RWD) and leading technologies could potentially help improve the drug development effort. This was also an opportunity for me to refresh my perspective on where the pharmaceutical industry is headed. Here are my biggest takeaways from this year’s conference.

1. Data, data everywhere

With the growing body of RWD, I’m seeing greater efforts from industry to shift from having lots of data to having data that is fit for purpose. The industry continues to grapple with the fact that RWD is ultimately messy data. Considerations and tradeoffs may be required as the overall industry collectively works towards helping to harness the power of RWD to fill protocol gaps, apply insights from disease-specific utilization, and work toward representation of populations of interest. Additional challenges that are still being worked on include data quality and data relevancy. I’m also seeing that there are different approaches to quantify data and understand eligible patient populations during protocol design to potentially reduce protocol amendments.

2. Artificial Intelligence (AI) enters clinical development

I noticed the way in which AI is being applied to clinical development was top of mind for attendees at SCOPE. I believe there’s broad acceptance that there are potential opportunities for AI and machine learning to change data capture solutions and assist in the cleaning of clinical data. However, I’ve noticed that real-world examples of AI in this area are still emerging, and there are only a handful of players in the market with AI technology in their offerings. But from my perspective, this is only the beginning; I think the industry is already starting to see opportunities where AI could help improve other parts of the clinical trial process, including site selection as well as recruitment and patient monitoring.

3. Connectivity and interoperability

Until now, I’ve noticed that companies tend to use multiple clinical development solutions that each address one part of the process. But I’m starting to see the industry look for smoother connections from action to action across different technologies. I saw companies at SCOPE rallying for collaboration among solution providers to build trust in and understanding of the cutting-edge technology that’s available. That’s why I’ve encouraged integrations and partnerships that could help enable a unified technology experience with our IBM Clinical Development product.

4. Patients at the center

It was clear to me that pharma companies are focused on nailing down the right way to be patient-centered, whether it’s to help enhance recruitment speed or benefit the design of a trial altogether. I’ve observed that most people in pharma are motivated by patient stories and call on their own personal connections to illness and studies to better understand the potential for improvement. For recruiting patients to participate in a clinical trial, I think it’s critical to consider how patients could be engaged throughout the process.IBM Watson Health provides ePRO technology that allows patients to conveniently share important information with caregivers. I believe this is an important focus because patient populations that were once thought to be inaccessible could use this technology to participate in timely studies.

5. More wearables

As decentralized trials become more popular and necessary, I think that pharma companies are eager to understand exactly what devices are going to make their trials robust and easy to monitor. I’ve seen some companies talk about the use of devices to verify adherence and shore up submission-grade data collected through other means. I’ve also observed that vendors are exploring new devices and making the most of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) options while carefully considering the tradeoffs from a patient-journey perspective. As the industry learns from consumer health trends, I’ve heard experts talk through how to find the right fit for using new tech in everything from recruitment and education to adherence and data collection.I believe we have a role to play in this space as well because IBM has deep knowledge that could help companies potentially develop and employ IoT strategies as well as operations with wearables.