Economies across the globe have suffered in different ways due to the COVID-19 crisis. Almost all kinds of businesses have experienced various losses, employees have found themselves without jobs, and everyone in the world has had to contend with major lifestyle upheavals. One of the industries that are taking center stage in the war against COVID-19 is the pharmaceutical industry, with many companies seeing positive growth on the stock market and finding themselves racing to discover innovations to find treatment and vaccine approvals as soon as possible. In a time of strong clinical and medical needs, Big Pharma has also been upended in major ways. Here are some of the ways the pharma sector has been changed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) emergency authorization of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine and with Moderna’s vaccine most likely to follow suit, the pandemic has shown that it’s possible for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies all over the world to fast-track a vaccine. Developing a vaccine in less than a year is not usual, but it’s in keeping with the whole unprecedented nature of the pandemic. There are plenty of benefits and risks to fast-tracking the traditional process of creating a vaccine, but since people’s lives and public trust are on the line, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will continue to expand safety and vaccine safety monitoring through additional information sources and new systems.
Unscathed stock market
While other industries have found themselves reeling over the loss of consumers, disrupted supply chains, and other consequences of the public health crisis, Big Pharma remains largely unscathed, financial-wise, since market caps rose in the second quarter of 2020, during the height of the pandemic. Despite the global turbulence caused to the global stock markets by the coronavirus crisis, the pharmaceutical industry has not just survived but thrived. It continues to increase its market worth thanks to a high level of medication sales and various deal-making with other industries. The pharmaceutical industry has shown resistance towards the negative economic effects of the crisis, and they have also experienced a lot of short-term gains. It remains to be seen, however, if these gains will remain as economies all over the world continue to reel from the impact of the crisis.
SMEs, academia, and big pharma partnerships
These three sectors have teamed up to create an effective vaccine, to scale up manufacturing, and to negotiate deals that could provide as many people as possible with access to vaccines—all in a short span of time. Some partnerships include AstraZeneca and Oxford University, Pfizer and BioNTech, and Merck and Themis. Additionally, trusted pharmaceutical laboratory instrumentation and innovative solutions provider, Pion, has announced that they would be offering their analytical services pro bono to join the fight to develop vaccines and therapeutics to defeat COVID-19 once and for all. Many institutions—from the business to the scientific and academic sectors—have shown that when all hands are on deck, it’s possible to achieve their clinical goals quicker and with favorable results.
Re-evaluating supply chains
Another enduring consequence of the public health crisis in the pharmaceutical industry is the re-evaluation of supply chains, which the industry having to explore a more regional and failsafe approach. Manufacturers have had to look into re-designing their established supply chains to transition to more regional-reliant manufacturing hubs. It might be a years-long transition and would take a lot of financial resources to rebuild infrastructure, but it will increase the quality of the medication being manufactured, and will ultimately decrease costs over time.
At a time when so many all over the world are experiencing different levels of suffering and loss, drug companies have been under pressure to exhibit compassion with regards to royalties for drug development. Additionally, in a time of an economic downturn and public health crisis, the reputation of and public trust towards pharmaceutical corporations are on the line, and how they contributed to the fight against COVID-19 will go down in history and will always be part of their legacy. Profiting off of a global tragedy will cause pharmaceutical companies to experience increased scrutiny, and our current circumstances have shown which companies truly care about their consumers, and not just about profit.
All industries across the board have had to pivot in major ways to help curb the spread of COVID-19, and in turn, protect what’s left of our economy. Among those who have been changed, maybe for good, is the pharmaceutical industry—with the hope that the companies and scientific community will learn from this pandemic and transition to better practices that can help them protect the world even more.