Q: What steps is your company taking to address drug pricing issues?

Drug Pricing Solutions

Brian Albright, Global Manufacturing and Supply Chain Leader, Pharma Solutions, DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences

A: Our biggest focus is in digitalization and investing across our business to enable a virtual world, which enables faster decision-making and more efficient solutions that can help address cost profiles throughout the industry. 

The top priority is to digitalize our production capabilities. We are using state-of-the-art capabilities and engaging with third parties that specialize in the area. Implementation is ongoing in our manufacturing plants — and we’re already seeing outstanding results. Better planning and reporting tools, as well as in-depth digital and analytics tools, allow a better understanding of variability in our processes, and we’re breaking historical production records. Digitizing can ultimately produce even better products through an improved technology and data infrastructure. We’re also instituting virtual technical support throughout the supply chain, which means 24/7 attention to our business and supply to customer. And enhanced tools for remote communication and verification means that we can not only stay connected but also keep our fingers directly on the pulse of what’s happening in our supply chain — even without being there.

Wolfram Schulze, Vice President Information Systems, Organization, & Digital Transformation and Head of Infection Prevention Task Force, Rentschler Biopharma

A: In acknowledgment of our essential role in the value stream of drug development and manufacturing, we continuously strive to excel at each discipline within our service portfolio. 

With a clear focus on our clients and the related client experience, we are transforming our services via a holistic approach. Be it project management, process development, manufacturing, or quality control — we are aiming to optimize all processes along the value stream, in order to consistently deliver premium results while making them more economical. Our existing initiatives around operational excellence cover supply chain simplifications, optimized production planning, and capacity utilization, as well as guided decision-making based on easy access to relevant and context-sensitive data. These initiatives are enabled and complemented by digital capabilities and services, which we will further grow in the near future to enhance them with ‘smart’ features. Technologies being leveraged in this context include — but are not limited to — big data analytics, machine learning, and mixed reality. Key to all these innovations, however, is our focus on an integrated user experience — for our internal stakeholders as well as our clients. After all, we are on a mission to provide premium services that allow our clients to let us handle the complexity of the process and focus on the timely delivery of urgently needed biopharmaceutical products to patients worldwide. 

Brad Payne, Chief Operating Officer, PCI Pharma Services

A: Although drug pricing is ultimately up to the pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical companies, we are taking steps at PCI to simplify the supply chain to help drug companies realize more efficiencies. 

One of the main initiatives we have undertaken toward this goal is our digital transformation process, whereby we are digitizing our core business processes, with both the client and our own global business efficiency in mind. We are looking to eliminate the need for manual activity so clients can get the critical information they need in real time. This requires new SOPs, new client service and project management digital tools, full integration with our enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, and smart usage of our data. By digitizing our business processes, it helps collapse the timeframe of projects so products can ultimately come to market faster. In creating these efficiencies and simplifying the supply chain, we hope we can contribute to drug pricing solutions for our clients.

Jean-Luc Herbeaux, Ph.D., Chief Operations Officer, Hovione

A: Although CDMO costs related to APIs and drug products often represent only a small percentage of the final drug price, Hovione invests continuously in technologies and processes to improve customer value. Our integrated service offering (with drug substance, particle design, and downstream capabilities) and our ability to serve all project sizes from early clinical to commercial scales help large pharma and biotech alike minimize program complexity and ensure continuity. More specifically, we see the integration of services — from drug substance to drug product — within one site as a way to expedite drug development through supply chain simplification and unified project management. Hovione is well equipped for this, with sites that were designed for purpose. Earlier in the value chain, our formulation and process optimization tools and expertise, including advanced computational modeling capabilities, allow our customers to save costly API, shorten their developmental timelines, and reduce their developmental costs. 

David Freidinger, Vice President of Pharma Solutions Business Management, BASF

A: In November 2019, BASF launched our Virtual Pharma Assistants, a suite of cutting-edge tools aimed at supporting the most critical elements of pharmaceutical manufacturing and catalyzing the process of formulation, qualification, and procurement of key ingredients in the manufacturing of pharmaceutical products. The COVID-19 situation, which occurred shortly after this, has further emphasized the need to pivot in this direction and highlights the unique value that our tools bring to the market — particularly as regards savings in the resource-intensive area of drug development. More specifically, ZoomLab™, our formulation assistant, provides an advanced, proprietary algorithm based on BASF’s best formulation knowledge that provides drug formulators real-team formulation development — all online with optimized results available instantly. This significantly reduces the trial and error normally present in the formulation development cycle and therefore reduces time/money to market, shedding months to years off of development time. 

Furthermore, RegXcellence™, our online self-service portal provides instant, 24/7 access to regulatory and quality compliance documentation, which includes custom documentation. This allows our customers to greatly speed up the submission process and ensures that our customers receive up-to-date and always accurate qualification and submission documents — reducing costly mistakes and greatly accelerating the time-consuming process for our customers. In pharmaceutical development, the greatest impact on the price of drugs is the time it takes for development and the tremendous resources required to bring a drug to market — at BASF, we do our part in reducing the price of medications by greatly lubricating this process, reducing time to market, and making cutting-edge knowledge instantly available in all regions of the world.

Read Part 1: Post-COVID-19 Supply Chain

Brian Albright

Brian Albright has worked in the manufacturing and supply chain functions of various specialty materials companies for more than 20 years, cultivating a broad background in all facets of production and supply planning with multiple global assignments. Albright brings a strong focus to workplace and process safety, as well as to generating value to customers in his role. He holds a degree in Chemical Engineering from University of Dayton.