Evolution of Pharma: From Pills to Prevention


(illustration Ǭ© Glenzz)

By DJ Edgerton

The phrase “life cycle” is frequently heard in…?

Well, largely in grammar-school biology classes. In the context of frogs. But this is not the place to go to learn about the Rana genus. And so, to the other place you hear it: pharmaceutical-marketing meetings – where it becomes one of the primary drivers of strategy.

To anyone familiar with the industry, life cycle management is not only a focal point – it is a bedrock, a basic truth upon which all work is done. A drug’s patent protection is finite. Like a sonnet, work can done within the structure, but the structure exists, impassive.

However, what perhaps is not thought of often is whether the industry itself has a life cycle – and if it does, whether it is nearing its end. This is not to compare pharmaceuticals to horse-drawn carriages – or even to videocassette recordings or land-line telephones. The technology and innovation of the industry remain as striking as ever, and the protection, renewal and saving of human life could rightly be called miracles.

Medicines do amazing work. This has not, and will not, change. The structure, though, may be the part coming to an end.

Especially in the United States, but around the world, the current model of health care is at a crossroads. World leaders are working to try to find a way that works better – that helps more people, faster and cheaper. Not because it would be an interesting economic exercise, but because it is mandatory. While in poorer countries millions die of eminently curable diseases, richer countries families and the elderly are stooped, strained to breaking, by the constraints of their healthcare costs.

A decade ago the pharmaceutical industry was flash. But here’s a prediction: a decade from now the pharmaceutical industry will not exist as we know it.

It will be subsumed by the wellness industry. Whereas today we see exercise and nutrition as separate industries from each other, and vastly separate from the medical field of pills and drugs, this cannot continue.

It just doesn’t make economic sense. Plainly put: it’s almost always cheaper to prevent disease than to cure it. Furthermore, it doesn’t make human sense – it’s almost always less painful to prevent disease than to cure it.

The way to manage a product’s life cycle is to go in with the understanding that there will be an end, and to take the logical steps to ensure success for the business even after that point. We must do the same.



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