It’s that time of the year when forecasts, predictions and priorities get shared. Rather than focus on the more obvious business-evolution ones, I am going out on a limb and offering somewhat bolder predictions. I realize some may be controversial or have a lower probability of coming to be, but they should offer food for thought.
1. All Talk, No Action on Pricing: Talk about pricing transparency will be loud across not only biopharma companies but all players of the healthcare system and especially the political space. There will be so many pricing ideas and proposals shooting in so many different directions that in the end nothing significant will happen by the end of the year.
2. Increased Pressure on Speaker Programs: I predict that at least one major life sciences company will announce a decision to stop them and to change their commitment to education from live dinner programs to only Independent Medical Education/CME support and online promotional medical education programming.
3. Virtual Reality on the Rise: VR devices will be the gizmo of choice at exhibits in medical meetings. We will be able to travel through the circulatory system, the brain, the lymphatic system and other places chasing enemy organisms and rogue biology.
4. “Patient Centricity” on the Decline: Patient centricity will begin to show signs of overuse and disillusionment. Not that the concept is not critical for everyone, but it will stop being the program of the month and will get embedded into the fabric of companies. This is a good thing.
5. Reversal of Mergers: Some major companies will break up into two to three pieces. Some may use creative “shared services” approaches to create operational efficiencies while remaining independent.
6. Small Companies Left Alone Post-merger: There will be a mini-trend in which large companies buying small ones do not integrate them into the main business but leave them somewhat alone so they can innovate and thrive without getting swallowed into the bigger machine.
7. Sales Reps Role Change: The value of sales representatives will be somewhat restored as they move from old reach and frequency models, mirrored sales forces, sample-dropping teams to being more conveyors of current information. On the other hand, if you have nothing new in terms of products or data or information, your access will dwindle.
8. More Fraud: More physicians, clinics and hospitals will be indicted for healthcare fraud.
9. Startups Go Under: As they fail to move from the basic seed or bootstrap funding stage to larger rounds of financing many startups will go under. This may be a good thing as too much talent and money is being spread too thinly. A round of failures and consolidation will result in innovation getting critical mass.
10. “Big Data” and “Real World Evidence”: Big Data and Real World Evidence will be the buzzwords of the year. Fasten your seatbelts. The winner will not be the one who can build a bigger haystack, but the one who can make sense out of it.
11. Off-label Case Revisited: Companies and agencies will rush to read the Amarin case as an open door to discuss certain off-label data. A subsequent smack-down will follow to put it in the right (appropriate) place.
12. Patient Relations Put Under the Microscope: Expect increased attention to and scrutiny at relations between biopharma companies and patient advocacy organizations.
13. Supplier/Agency Consolidation: There will be a dramatic consolidation of agencies, data providers, consultancies and other providers to the industry. This will be the result of client M&A activity (not sufficiently counteracted by prediction #5) as well as a push by clients to review their book of business and vendor rosters.
14. Agency Management Reorganization: At least one major company will move agency category management out of procurement and back into business operations (by any name). This follows an example set by Pepsi a few months ago.
15. Globalization, Regionalization, Localization Switcheroo: We will continue to see boomerang and rubber-band reorganizations of companies going back and forth between globalization, regionalization and localization of strategic work. Those who moved to one place will move back to where they came from just three years ago and vice-versa—and so the cycle continues. This will keep consulting groups happy.
16. Women in Power: We will finally see a greater number of women becoming CEOs at biopharma companies. Unfortunately, the numbers will still be small.