Gone are the days when doctors, nurses, pharmacologists and other professionals in the medical field were found just in hospitals or labs.
IT companies are hiring them for their life sciences businesses, which involves research and development in the discovery/pre-clinical and clinical phase of drugs, manufacturing, analytics for sales and marketing and regulatory compliance.
According to IMS Health, a consultancy firm, the global life sciences market will be as large as $830 billion in 2009. These companies typically spend 3-5% of their total revenue on IT which includes both hardware and software. Among the challenges for pharmaceutical companies includes speeding up their drug development cycle on account of existing generic competition and the impending loss of major patents.
As a result, the demand among the pharma companies for a more cost-efficient pipeline has intensified in recent years and outsourcing is helping in battling this. A few large IT firms like Cognizant, Accenture, TCS and Patni provide services in the clinical trial data management as well as analytics space.
The global clinical trials business was estimated to be worth $50 billion in 2008 with an annual growth rate of 10 per cent. This is according to “Global Clinical Trial Business Report & Analysis 2008-2018.” For a drug to be accepted in the market, data management of these trials is a complex process. It involves data collection for evaluation from a large global patient population, validating the accuracy of the data, analysing large amounts of data and eventually making some clinical interpretations that relate to the safety and effectiveness of the drug under trial. The data collection, validation, analysis and reporting is generally done with the help of IT systems due to the large amounts of data involved.
To date, many players have made a foray into this area. “There have been contract research organisations (CROs) that have started separate offshore data management units. Some of them are IT/ITES companies that leverage software processes and technology expertise while others like pharmaceutical companies are setting up captive biometrics and data management operations,” said Cognizant AVP life sciences practice J Sairamkumar.
It is one of the few IT firms which has 24.4% of its total revenues coming from the healthcare and life sciences segment. The company has doctors, pharmacologists, physicians, biomedical engineers, pharmacists, bio-statisticians and medical writers on its payroll.
Analytics and profiling trends in the drug development, clinical trial and also in the post-marketing stage are a few other areas that IT companies specialise in. This analysis of data helps the pharma companies maximise their profits and chart their marketing course. “A large part of the work done with pharma companies is in the areas of innovation and development of new drugs. Clinical study reports are written for the USFDA for commercial and regulatory purposes. All this is done out of our BPO in India,” said Patni BPO head Sanjiv Kapur.