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Let's Get Small

For pharma, small is in — big is out. The era of the blockbuster drug may not be over, but there are signs that many are moving away from an all-or-nothing strategy.

By MIKE AUERBACH, Editor in Chief, Pharmaceutical Processing

Mike AuerbachWhen Steve Martin uttered these three words some 30 years ago, I’m sure he wasn’t predicting the future of the pharmaceutical industry. After all, he was a rising comic looking for a laugh.

I thought it was funny. But nowadays, I don’t think anyone in the industry is laughing at what’s been happening to so-called “big” pharma and some of the trends that have presented themselves in recent years.

For the pharma industry, small is in — big is out. No one wants to be seen as a big lumbering monolithic corporation stuck in the past. The era of the big blockbuster drug may not be over — but there are signs that many companies are moving away from this all-or-nothing business strategy.

We are hearing the same buzzwords over and over: flexibility, nimbleness, small-scale. Follow these trends and survive — don’t do it and well — you take your chances.

But how is this possible? How could so many companies have gotten it wrong and are now struggling to get it right? And even more importantly, what are the companies that “get it” doing now to be successful?

Personally, I think a lot of it has to do with some of the latest technologies introduced to the market. Certainly, technologies such as disposables have allowed small companies the flexibility and cost savings needed to survive.

Other technologies, such as isolators and containment technologies, have also allowed companies to reduce the size of their facility (no need for a true cleanroom anymore), thereby saving manufacturing space, cleaning costs, etc.

Finally, these smaller, nimbler companies are realizing there is plenty of opportunity and reward in developing and marketing products that aren’t going to be blockbusters, but serve a no less needy and deserving patient population.

What's your take? Let me know via email at [email protected].

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