“Artificial Intelligence is the future of the pharmaceutical industry and is here to stay”

There is a constant tug of war between the need to innovate and the need to mitigate risk in the pharmaceutical sector. The digital process must gain momentum in the pharmaceutical industry, sharing Dr Vishal RajgarhiaDirector, Finecure Pharmaceuticals Limited in an interaction with Kaanchi Chawla of Elets Information Network (ENN). Edited excerpts:

With the increasing penetration of technology in the industry, what are the trends and innovations taking place in the Indian pharmaceutical industry?

Many new trends have had a considerable impact on the pharmaceutical industry, especially since the advent of Covid, practically changing its face forever. Among them, the use of artificial intelligence has accelerated the discovery and production of new drugs and therapies at significantly reduced costs, which helps to increase productivity and improve efficiency. Artificial intelligence is also of great help in designing marketing strategies and practical accessibility to hitherto unexplored markets. Big data is a mine of information, an asset for developing new solutions. Pharmaceutical companies can use the power of unlimited data to make more remarkable progress in the discovery and development of new drugs, as well as new applications for existing compounds. Blockchain technology is another innovation that has helped the industry evolve and grow. Thanks to this modernization, it is now possible to set up an efficient production and distribution of medicines. Second, it helps in data analysis and, therefore, will lead to better results in drug development. In addition, it offers a high level of security and transparency. Thanks to it, pharmaceutical companies can fight against counterfeit and poor quality medicines.

What are the factors driving the growth of the Indian pharmaceutical industry?

The main growth is driving government support for the pharmaceutical industry, digital transformation, cost efficiency, improved and low-cost production, and a huge and skilled workforce. Under the shock of covid, the government has helped streamline pharmaceutical manufacturing through innovative and generous policies and initiatives. Financial incentives have also been provided. The latest technologies and the widespread use of artificial intelligence have helped to improve the R&D process, thus leading to the discovery of newer and better drugs. The availability of a huge workforce has ensured that no manufacturing step has been hampered and today India’s pharmaceutical industry has successfully become the world’s third largest in terms of volume and among the top ten first in value.

The rapid increase in technology increases the risks. What is the biggest challenge facing the pharmaceutical industry today?

While the increase in technology has helped cope with the challenges presented by two years of covid, the rapid increase has also brought its fair share of problems. Since these changes are so profound and comprehensive, it is a major challenge for pharmaceutical companies to keep pace. Digital technology in the pharmaceutical industry has helped increase the efficiency, quality and speed of drug development, but it has often been difficult to keep pace with its rapid development. Additionally, data breaches and cybersecurity threats have made it difficult to protect valuable consumer data. Large industrial organizations normally have the essential means to adopt new digital solutions. However, smaller manufacturers often lack the means to pursue these same goals, and the cost of installing such systems could become an obstacle. Additionally, the pharmaceutical industry is still somewhat new to the digital game. Many manufacturing managers may not understand the inner workings of some of the latest developments such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and advanced data analytics, and finally, employees used to the traditional work style may resist changes because they may not be too many. comfortable with it. However, slowly but surely, the invasion of the digital landscape will totally change the face of the industry for the better.

Artificial intelligence is becoming popular in all industries. Do you think AI plays an imperative role in the pharmaceutical industry? If yes, how ?

Artificial intelligence is the future of the pharmaceutical industry and it’s here to stay. It can reduce costs, improve patient care, drive profitable innovation and improve business outcomes across the value chain. Almost all pharmaceutical companies are leveraging the power of AI to help them overcome many challenges. AI helps to efficiently access and analyze large amounts of data to improve business processes and results. It provides essential information on how to improve drug design, optimization and synthesis. It eliminates human errors and speeds up work processes leading to affordable yet cost-effective drugs. Additionally, AI tools can improve the success rate of new drugs by performing quality control and solving supply chain issues within the production line, and reducing material waste. A singular benefit of AI is its ability to perform predictive maintenance that helps reduce operational costs.

Digital processes are gaining ground in the pharmaceutical industry. Do you think this improves transparency and mitigates data loss?

There is a constant tug of war between the need to innovate and the need to mitigate the risk it brings in its wake. The digital process must gain momentum in the pharmaceutical industry. All manual methods exist simply because they have become the norm.

For example, digital processes, which have improved operational efficiency and made it easier to follow standard operating procedures, have replaced many paper-based processes. This is a trend that will continue. This will also help foster regulatory compliance. Many pharmaceutical companies value implementing digital processes because the benefits far outweigh the costs. They are constantly on the lookout for any technological advantage that could help them adapt to new and better ways of working. However, the same digital innovations can also lead to risks such as security breaches, regulatory compliance failures, and similar setbacks. It also improves transparency and has the potential to mitigate data loss. However, the pros far outweigh the cons, and the technology has placed the industry on a pedestal it has never trod before.

The cluster-based approach is increasingly recognized as an effective and sustainable strategy for improving the competitiveness of the pharmaceutical industry. What do you think of the contribution of cluster-based manufacturing to the growth of the pharmaceutical sector?

The cluster-based approach is a commendable government initiative that has proven to be a boon for all micro, small and medium enterprises. The format proposed a plan to bring together all these companies to improve productivity and competitiveness and strengthen the capacities and skills of SMEs located in clusters. This would not have been viable for individual industries as they would need world-class quality manufacturing facilities with high levels of productivity and innovation capabilities as well as a lot of financial capital. The cluster-based strategy is increasingly recognized as an effective and sustainable strategy for improving the competitiveness of the pharmaceutical industry. It is felt that this government’s Cluster Development Program for the Pharmaceutical Sector (CDP-PS) has single-handedly succeeded in improving the quality, productivity and innovation capacities of the pharmaceutical sector of SMEs in the country by giving it a value and a position to face all the challenges facing the industry. Common facilities provided include calibration and validation of major equipment, provision of common testing facilities such as analytical laboratory, toxicology centre, process and product validation laboratory, raw materials, a standardization laboratory which lead to better quality assurance and control. Establishment of a common environment-friendly incinerator and a common ETP (effluent treatment plant) for the safe disposal of hazardous and non-hazardous waste and establishment of a training center for training to proper documentation which is a very important part of the pharmaceutical industry. In a nutshell, the cluster-based approach has led to increased productivity, reduced operational costs, and competitive advantage in the marketplace.

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