A look into the future: Pharma trends and themes 10 years on

By John Bell, Industry General Manager and Americas Leader, CSC Life Sciences

At the start of every year, industry publications frequently write articles reviewing the year just past and offering some projections on the year ahead.

In this first blog in an “Outside the Box” series, I’d like to break from traditional thinking and look further into the future with a ten-year projection.

As we enter 2015 and look back over the past ten years, we see that there have been some dramatic changes in the pharmaceutical industry.

  • The Path to Electronic: The move from paper submissions to the electronic common technical document (eCTD) began around 2005. Ten years ago, companies were unsure or even anxious about such a big change; today it’s simply accepted practice.
  • Merger Mania: In the past decade, thousands of M&As have been announced and today many of the big names have been absorbed into even bigger ones, such as Wyeth being bought by Pfizer and Schering-Plough being acquired by Merck.
  • An Emerging Pattern: Where once pharma companies focused their investments largely in Europe and North America (and Japan, to some degree), emerging markets are now seen as highly attractive, starting firstly with the BRICK economies – Brazil, Russia, India, China and Korea (with Korea now regarded as emerged) – to BRICMT – adding Mexico and Turkey – and then including other southeast Asian countries as well as other parts of South America and Africa.
  • Regulatory Harmony: While regulatory authorities still have their own specific requirements, more efforts are being made – particularly between the FDA and the EMA – to harmonize and standardize.

Every indication is that the pace of change will increase over the next 10 years.  So where will we be in 2025? Let’s take a hypothetical look into the future and see what changes will have the largest impact on the growth and performance of the industry.

M&A and Partnerships:

  • The “Big Four” global pharmaceutical firms dominate the market at over $250 billion in revenue each. The hunt for growth has driven massive consolidation during the recent strong economy. Eight firms control over 80% of the generic business. This consolidation has been driven by the quest for growth in an age when blockbuster drugs are few and far between and the cost of R&D continues to be high.
  • After multiple failures, a highly successful non-profit consortium funded by the “Big Four” provides shared services and cloud-based ITaaS in all areas of the business that are not proprietary, confidential or differentiated. Cost-cutting has driven collaboration deep within the enterprise.
  • The major CROs have all integrated or morphed into tier one technology / consulting / BPO firms driven by the need to grow in a saturated market. Limitation of patients available for trials and the shift from trial-based revenue to commercialization of their products and services for the LS industry have driven the shift in priorities.


  • Some wearable devices have had a difficult time finding their way into everyday society – but not in healthcare. By 2025 clinical trials are monitored remotely 24/7 via smart watches, smart pendants and mobile devices. Sky-fi (replacing Wi-Fi for high bandwidth global coverage) makes this possible.
  • Ingestible micro-monitors report patient health for real-time analytics.
  • Transdermal ingestion is the most common form of drug administration.
  • Data centers, on-premises software, on-premises hardware and internal IT departments have been phased out completely and replaced by ITaaS and a core organization to interface between the business and the external service organizations.


  • There is a dramatic increase in the success of the drug development process due to the maturity of early commercialization and pharmacovigilance analytics.
  • The populations of India and China are now the largest consumers of big pharma products due to the stabilization and growth of their economies as well as their continued population growth.

Regulatory Agencies:

  • The drug regulatory portion of the FDA has been replaced by a global regulatory agency called the Global Drug Agency (GDA) which is focused on patient safety and approvals in a global environment. The regulatory burden has been dramatically reduced through cutting-edge technology and improved processes while showing massive improvement in agency effectiveness.

Where do you see the potential for major change in the industry?  What scenarios do you think will have the biggest positive or negative impact? Over the coming weeks and months, I’d like to explore these themes and trends in greater depth, including how they impact you, your partners, and your patients. In particular, I’ll look at the outside-the-box thinking that needs to take place in the life sciences industry to achieve some of the dramatic potential changes that I’ve highlighted.



  1. Hey! Definitely an interesting outlook for the coming years! I agree that technology plays the major role in the pharmaceuthical industry, the raise of biotechnology will continue to play a major role in there. Climate change and new diseases will certainly be big “market” for big pharma…

  2. Abhinav says:

    Nice thought. But the partnership part, ‘Big four’ providing a non-confidential shared platform, that too in 10 years is quite far fetched in my view. Again the Global org is viable, but still non-existence of FDA and other national regulatory bodies may not be a possibility.

  3. John Bell says:

    Thanks for your comment – my thoughts are that no one could have foreseen the collaboration around non-proprietary areas of pharma that is commonplace now – this will increase and continue as the quest to reduce costs drives partnerships and deep collaboration.

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