Is Collaboration the Way Forward for the Pharmaceutical Industry?

December 12, 2012
  • Cecile Oger portrait

    Cecile Oger

    Managing Director, People and Culture, BSR

Cecile Oger, Manager, Advisory Services, BSR

Collaboration is not new in the pharmaceutical industry. In fact it is almost as old as the industry itself, which started around World War II. I have long been a great fan of collaborative initiatives: While working nearly a decade for a pharmaceutical think tank, I witnessed how great things can be accomplished when the barriers of competition fall. In my experience, collectively finding solutions not only generates recommendations, guidelines, and best practices, it also fosters new models and pushes entire sectors towards faster progress. And today, faster progress is what we need to deliver safer, more affordable, and more effective medicine to larger populations.

At the BSR Conference 2012, GlaxoSmithKline’s Claire Dixon said that collaboration is essential, particularly in areas like child mortality where the complex and systemic nature of the challenge requires leveraging assets and competencies from a range of organizations. Earlier in the year, the London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) also acknowledged that no one company, organization, or government could tackle NTDs alone, and that only collaborative efforts between public and private entities could achieve ambitious, yet essential, eradication goals. A BSR study commissioned by IFPMA on the future of global health partnerships confirms this sentiment by demonstrating how broad-based, multi-company partnerships are essential to achieving real progress on topics such as availability of treatment, health system infrastructure, awareness and prevention, and research and development (R&D). 

When my colleague Jonathan Morris recently blogged about collaboration 2.0 and open innovation, he raised a fundamental question: How do you define “successful” open innovation? When it comes to open innovation in pharmaceutical R&D, the answer should be simple: It is (of course) expected to reduce development time, stimulate R&D, and bring higher return on investment. However, it also means developing new medicines faster. So the real success should be in bringing new hopes to patients through solutions for their untreated diseases. 

At BSR, we strongly believe in collaboration and work with our members in the healthcare sector to:

  • Push for more sustainable supply chains through cross-industry collaborative initiatives such as the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Initiative and Beyond Monitoring Group, and various events such as the recent “Redesigning Supply Chains” workshop in Paris
  • Strengthen commitments from companies on providing access to healthcare with our Healthcare Working Group members
  • Support and advise our members on impactful stakeholder engagements, access to medicine strategies, and other projects based on collaborative efforts

Even if it is obvious that not everything can be shared and that collaboration is just one of the tools needed to shape the future of the industry, I’d still like to conclude on a very inspiring phrase that Isabelle Autissier, Navigator and President of WWF France, said earlier this month at an event in Paris: “The only thing on the planet that we have no shortage of is grey matter. We are destined to work collectively to create our common future.”

So, come on, pharma folks: Let’s collectively use all these grey cells for the greater good of humanity!

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