How Big Pharma Is Protecting Patients Using Big Data
Big data platforms allow users to draw conclusions that may not otherwise be evident. They can also look for trends in tremendous amounts of data and do so in a substantially shorter time than humans alone could. The pharmaceutical industry is tapping into the wealth of big data to make gains and maximize patient safety.
Making Better Assessments About Drug Safety
It can take years and millions of dollars invested in drug development before new treatments make it to the market. Once the trial phases start, the typical process is to test drugs on animals first, then humans. However, companies are moving away from relying on animals as they did previously and turning to patient data instead.
Some adverse events reported for particular drugs only manifest in animals. There are also biological differences between animals and humans. Moreover, safety concerns and lack of efficacy are two of the top reasons why drugs don’t make it past clinical trials.
A recent study used big data to see which animals ordinarily used for pharmaceutical testing were the best predictors of side effects in humans. It concluded that such accuracy depended on the creature and the event experienced. Those findings could reduce the instances of using certain animals for studies if they aren’t likely to reflect how humans respond to a drug.
Pharmaceutical companies would have fewer unpleasant surprises during human trials, and the subjects have a reduced chance of encountering issues after taking the drugs.
Allowing Better Collaboration to Happen in Global Clinical Trials
Drug companies comprising the Big Pharma landscape often have trials all over the world. Until relatively recently, though, it wasn’t possible to utilize the data from all those investigations at once. In 2016, Novartis developed a system that brought information from its nearly 500 global clinical trials of the past and present under one roof.
It used cloud technology and broke down the siloed structure the company had before. The platform features a component that allows clinical trial representatives from around the world to communicate with each other. There are also risk prediction features that can prevent dangerous patient consequences.
The combination of a wealth of data and the ability of people to give insights throughout clinical trials enhances both the processes and the outcomes.
Ensuring Medications Stay in the Proper Environments
Many of the drugs Big Pharma companies create must stay within consistent temperature ranges. A deviation of only 2 degrees could be enough to ruin an entire batch, resulting in substantial and unexpected expenses. Properly transporting and storing drugs is also necessary for regulatory compliance.
The companies specializing in containers for shipping those drugs usually offer options with data loggers. Big Pharma companies can connect those to their data platforms and rest assured the cargo stayed at the correct temperature before it reached the destination.
From a patient side of things, high temperatures can change the consistency of some drugs and affect their potency, possibly causing problems for the people who consume them.
Confirming Real-World Worthiness
Clinical trials provide essential information about how drugs affect patients, but some findings are only apparent after years of use. That’s why drug manufacturers are anxious to get their hands on real-world evidence from routinely collected patient data and other sources. Fitness trackers, apps and electronic health records (EHR) are some of the things that contain data Big Pharma companies could use.
Getting a handle on real-world evidence allows them to prove to stakeholders that their product works. Moreover, the significant increase in data could lead to advances in highly personalized medicine.
However, some people aren’t on board with turning their data over to Big Pharma. They fear companies will primarily use their information for marketing purposes and give them little or no control over what happens to it.
Fortunately, there’s a growing recognition of the need for data privacy within the Big Pharma sector. Most of the largest companies have tightened up their practices, but some of the smaller entities that deal with medical data still have work to do.
Some people within the industry believe California’s upcoming data privacy law will cause large-scale improvements. After all, it’s not cost-effective to have one set of data privacy standards for California residents and another for everyone else. As it is now, some companies that use medical data aren’t adequately transparent about how they use patient data, and there are no clear global standards to follow.
Big Data Offers Promise if Used Carefully
The examples presented here show how there are ample opportunities to use big data to improve patient safety. However, those efforts could backfire if breaches or other invasions of privacy happen. Big Pharma must continue to keep privacy a priority when dealing with data.