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IT-The New Viagra

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DQI Bureau
New Update

Times are indeed challenging for the Indian pharma industry. As if increasing

competition from global and domestic players as well as the pressure to enhance

profitability-even as drug price controls continue to exist and costs escalate-were

not enough, the impending onset of the product patent regime, under WTO

regulations, has added to the burden. But the industry has risen to these

challenges. IT has been a key enabler in translating this strategy into reality.

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The cumulative IT spending by 12 of India's leading pharma companies,

accounting for 46% of the industry sales, was Rs 121 crore in the year 2003-04.

This, however, translated into IT spendings by most of these players at less

than 1% of their total revenues. Most players spent somewhere in the vicinity of

Rs 5 crore on IT during the year. The trend is that pharma companies in India

view IT as a form of business technology comprising business skills more than

technical. The focus for IT implementation is more on strategic imperatives and

outsource operation.

Most players spent somewhere in the vicinity of Rs 5 crore on IT during the year

There are certain patterns in IT adoption by pharma companies. These patterns

range from functional (stage 1), integrated (stage 2), optimized enterprise

(stage 3) to extended enterprise (stage 4). Stage I companies are characterized

by the presence of various function or department-specific applications in the

overall application portfolio. Data consolidation or communication between

applications may happen as a batch process at regular intervals of time. Stage

II companies are those that have taken an integrated view to addressing their IT

needs through the implementation of an ERP. In addition to having a

well-integrated enterprise application, Stage III companies have also

implemented a comprehensive application to optimize the company's operations.

These applications take an organization-wide view and incorporate rigorous data

analysis techniques-such as predictive modeling, linear programming and

regression analysis, to facilitate informed decision-making. The Stage IV

companies have an IT setup that automates the organization, connects trading

parties, enables them to conduct transactions and conducts rigorous analysis of

captured data to facilitate decision-making across the extended enterprise.

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There are various IT solutions available to enable companies to accelerate

the process of drug discovery and drug design. Some MNC pharmas are using

electronic Case Report Forms (CRFs) for clinical trials being conducted in

India. However, these were primarily targeted towards supporting clinical trial

studies originating from their global R&D centers. Domestic pharmaceutical

companies have also started taking tentative steps towards experimenting with IT

solutions in this area. Some leaders have invested or are planning to invest in

electronic data capture (eDC) applications, electronic filing, and ensuring

compliance with 21 CFR 11.

Field force productivity is constantly under the lens. And technology can be

one of the levers. A TCS report indicates that close to 60% of companies had

implemented Sales Force Automation (SFA) applications, while others were either

in the process of implementing or were actively considering alternatives

available in the market. All pharmaceutical companies in India acknowledge the

potential presented by eLearning. Training of medical representatives is clearly

the focus area for eLearning solutions.

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