As we move further into 2019, Emmanuel Fombu, MD, MBA: Author and Global Commercial Strategy and Digital Innovation Leader at Johnson and Johnson, reflects on what to expect from the rest of the year and beyond in the pharmaceutical landscape.

The battle for market share in the future will likely come down to which companies are able to ride these trends the most successfully.


The pharmaceutical industry has never been so perfectly placed to benefit from new technologies, which is why it’s unsurprising that it’s on the cusp of an inevitable wave of change. We’re about to see huge swathes of innovation thanks to everything from machine learning and artificial intelligence to wearable technologies and blockchain.

With that in mind, I wanted to take some time to look to the year ahead and to predict ten key trends – technological and otherwise – that will shape the pharmaceutical industry for the year to come. 



Market access

The idea behind market access is to ensure that there’s a process in place to make sure that all appropriate patients receive fair, quick and consistent access to medications that they need at the right price. It’s a trend that’s been shaping the healthcare market as a whole over the last few years, but it’s set to become even more relevant this year as pharmaceutical companies are left with little choice but to get on board.



Gene therapies

As the cost of genome sequencing continues to drop and the computers that we have access to become ever more powerful, genetic therapies have gone from future prediction to incoming reality. The idea is that by understanding how different genes affect both medications and the human body, we can tailor the treatments that we present to them. The challenge will be to find ways to fund these systems and to monitor their efficacy.



Value-based pricing

As an advocate of value-based pricing myself, perhaps it’s no surprise that I’ve included it on my list of predictions. The demand for true value-based pricing has continued to increase in recent years, and other trends such as preventative healthcare are having an impact on the way that we think about pricing in the pharmaceutical industry. This provides pharma companies with both challenges and opportunities – but only if they rise to meet them.



Brands will compete on quality

As the value-based era comes into play and we rethink the way we approach healthcare transactions, we’ll start to see brands competing purely on the quality of their products. They’ll have to because they’ll know that patients will have greater choice over their treatments and more data on which to base their decisions on. Quality will become a key differentiator.



Mobile apps will change the field


As a society, we’re getting more and more used to using smartphones and tablet computers to make decisions about our health and our lives. Smartphone apps might not necessarily replace traditional medication, but they can be used to encourage adherence or to help patients to manage their symptoms.



New players enter the market


We’re already starting to see this happen thanks to big tech companies creating wearable devices that can help consumers to monitor their heart rates and other conditions. It won’t be long until Amazon is ready to take on the chains of pharmacies that are scattered across the country with their existing Prime infrastructure to offer same day delivery.



AI and machine learning will change drug discovery


The healthcare AI market is expected to be worth nearly $2 billion by the end of 2019, and indeed artificial intelligence is the theme of my upcoming second non-fiction book. AI and machine learning are powerful new technologies with huge amounts of potential for the healthcare industry as a whole. When it comes to pharmaceutical companies, they could help us to tailor dosages to individual patients based on what’s worked well in other, similar situations. Better still, they could be used to streamline the drug discovery process and to identify the areas of research that show the most potential.



New countries become innovators


The United States and the United Kingdom have historically been at the forefront of medical research and technology, but their stranglehold on the industry could be about to end. That’s because countries like China, Japan, Israel, Singapore and India are starting to build impressive reputations for themselves, while the majority of western countries beat the US on quality of care metrics.



Voice apps will help both patients and physicians


Voice is becoming the new norm when it comes to the way that we search for and interact with information. In fact, it’s predicted that over a third of all searches by 2020 will be voice searches. Voice technology has a place in hospitals for visitor signposting and in the surgery to provide hands-free information to physicians. It also has a place in the hands of patients, reminding them when to take their medication and improving adherence. It will also start to act for many patients as their first step towards an eventual diagnosis.



New models of payment


As we move further into 2019 and beyond, we continue to increase the likelihood that different payment models will become successful in new use cases throughout the pharmaceutical industry. As we switch towards value-based pricing and a more preventative approach to healthcare, we open up the possibility for new types of payment. We may even end up rethinking the insurance industry as a whole to encourage them to spend money up front to stop problems and save money in the long run. Everybody wins.



The global pharmaceuticals market was worth $934.8 billion in 2018 and is set to reach nearly $1.2 trillion by 2021 according to a recent report from The Business Research Company. That means that the industry is set to accelerate the pace of its growth in the coming years, most likely thanks to a renaissance in the technologies that we use.

The ten trends that I’ve outlined in this article are just a few of many that look set to shape the pharmaceutical industry in the coming months and years. The battle for market share in the future will likely come down to which companies are able to ride these trends the most successfully. And don’t be surprised if you see a few familiar faces from the tech world entering the fray.