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3 Ways Automation Improves the Pharmaceutical Industry

Pharmaceutical automation is becoming increasingly adopted, particularly as executives look for ways to improve operational efficiency and support the bottom line in a challenging marketplace. There’s no universal best way to implement automation in a pharmaceutical organization, but one smart thing to do is look at ways people have successfully used it so far. Here are some thought-provoking examples.

1. Optimized Management of Decentralized Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are essential for showing pharmaceutical executives whether products associated with their companies are safe and effective in the real world. Technological advancements have dramatically changed how many clinical trials run. Instead of participants traveling to physical locations to check in with people overseeing the trial, they can often provide updates through smartphone apps. That advantage makes it easier to recruit patients and encourages them to take part in the whole trial. Otherwise, people often have numerous obligations that make the prospect of frequent traveling unpleasant and unfeasible.

In some cases, internet of things (IoT) sensors can collect real-time information about patient vital signs or other specifics. That’s also valuable because an in-person visit only captures details from a moment in time. However, connected sensors worn by a patient or otherwise used in daily life show what’s happening for an entire day.

One recent example was the clinical trial of a blood pressure pill. The trial involved 1,500 patients across seven countries. That spread shows the potential for pharmaceutical automation to make it easier to recruit more diverse patient populations. The patients used sensors that enabled the automated transmission of blood pressure readings in near real-time. People take their blood pressure at home, then the data goes almost immediately into a centralized clinical management system, even though the information originates from all over the world.

This kind of pharmaceutical automation could also help clinical trial managers get more accurate readings, too. Many people get nervous in healthcare settings, even when seeing someone in a white coat who’s about to take their blood pressure. That’s no longer an issue if people are in the familiar environment of their homes.

2. Enhanced Recordkeeping and Pharmacovigilance Measures

The pharmaceutical industry is tightly regulated, and the people working in the sector must keep careful records of how they operate, any adverse events that occur, inspection dates, and more. Many pharmaceutical automation products specifically make it easier to collect and store accurate data. Automating workflows can help reduce errors and raise productivity rates. By reducing the time it takes to perform data entry and other manual processes, companies can reduce laboratory overhead costs. That’s one of the reasons why people are so interested in using pharmaceutical automation to improve their pharmacovigilance efforts.

Making Pharmacovigilance Efforts More Effective

Pharmacovigilance plays a significant role in patient and societal safety. It involves tracking adverse events and getting to the bottom of what caused them. There’s also a major preventive aspect, and some companies even try to use predictive maintenance to stop unwanted occurrences altogether.

One such company is CSL Behring, a manufacturer of recombinant and plasma-derived therapeutics. It records more than 50,000 adverse events per year on a cloud platform with the help of robotic process automation (RPA). Automating numerous manual processes allows people to focus on higher-value tasks while getting a more informed impression about the nature of those adverse events. For example, automation allows some to get entirely handled by software. Then, humans have more time to take a closer look at what went wrong and why in regards to the more severe outcomes.

Automated tools can also make it easier to spot trends that might shed light on the reasons for whatever occurred. For example, did an unusually high number of people in a certain part of the country or world become ill after taking a specific medication? That could indicate that there’s something wrong with the production at a particular factory. Are most or all of the people experiencing adverse reactions from a certain age group? Perhaps that means whatever they’re taking is unsuitable for their particular age range.

These patterns are not always easy to spot, but pharmaceutical automation can make it simpler. People then have the knowledge needed to start narrowing down the root cause of an issue and solving it.

3. Accelerated Drug Discovery Methods

Succeeding as a pharmaceutical company doesn’t just involve producing the tried-and-true drugs people have taken for decades to relieve symptoms or manage chronic illnesses. It also requires companies to find and develop new products. That way, patients, healthcare providers, and others view them as innovators worth following.

Some companies have platforms that can analyze large amounts of data and find potential new drugs faster. That doesn’t always mean coming up with new treatments; it might just involve using established treatments in new ways.

Take the example of how scientists utilized automation to look at data from more than 1 million patients with heart disease contained in insurance claims. The algorithms helped researchers find six drug repurposing candidates that could lower heart disease and stroke risks in the patients prescribed to use them. One was a product typically used to treat diabetes. That example shows how drugs can often work in unexpected ways. When pharmaceutical companies come across discoveries like this, they can cut down research and development costs.

There’s no need to make a product from scratch, and people can instead focus on how the drug might provide previously unknown benefits. In another case of using algorithms to automate parts of the drug discovery process, the technology screened chemical compounds that could combine to make new products. This approach reportedly doubled researchers’ success rates, helping them narrow down drug candidates faster than previously possible.

Such progress is vital for pharmaceutical companies and the people in their target markets. Company executives can find potential profit boosters faster, and the patients who benefit from those products could see life-changing effects. It takes time and money to develop algorithms that can automate the drug-finding process. However, the payoffs are often worthwhile.

Pharmaceutical Automation Deserves Exploration

These three areas represent some of the many ways companies can use pharmaceutical automation to make meaningful gains. However, decision-makers should always take a customized approach to applying automation throughout organizations. Doing so might mean focusing on known weaknesses or determining how automation fits into organizational goals. It’s also necessary to set an automation budget and decide on metrics to track. Tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) can help leaders verify that their investments are paying off or indicate that they need to make further tweaks to optimize outcomes.

Emily Newton
Emily Newton
Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, an online magazine celebrating advances in science and technology.

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