Sector Report

Healthcare & Pharma

United in Health

From air pollution, to antimicrobial resistance, the health of humans, animals and the biosphere are inextricably linked.

The healthcare sector faces convergent challenges and opportunities - from the risks of antimicrobial resistance and climate enabled pandemics, to the ongoing consumer-driven shift to wellness and holistic illness prevention.

More than ever, food producers, retailers, pharmaceutical companies and policy makers are being forced to work together to find solutions to interconnected global health challenges.

“Society can spend only so much money on healthcare, so we have to spend it wisely. It’s important that we spend it on things that are actually creating value and having an impact.”

Signals to Watch

Uneven Access

While socio-economic and technological advances are helping to expand healthcare, it is spreading at an uneven rate around the world. Pharmaceutical and healthcare services companies have the opportunity to support healthcare expansion through collaborations, innovation, advocacy and the integration of technology into their existing business models to support universal health coverage (UHC). But the industry also faces risks of tighter regulations, challenged innovation, and has to find its way in a world realising the power of prevention and more holistic care.

  • China has extended basic health coverage to more than 90 percent of the population.

  • The number of people able to obtain key health services including immunization, family planning and bed nets has increased in the 21st century. Yet over half of the world’s population still cannot obtain essential healthcare, often pushed into poverty as a result of paying for healthcare costs.

  • The biopharmaceutical industry is engaging in more multi-sectoral partnerships to support the growth of UHC around the world. For instance, smartphones and video streaming services are already being used for remote doctor consultations and prescriptions.

  • The healthcare sector is seen as the sector with the potential highest overall impact on the success of the Sustainable Development Goals.

  • The rise of chronic illnesses and an aging population will continue to shift healthcare companies and governments towards greater investment in preventive medicine, wellness and a whole-health approach.

The healthcare industry has an enormous potential to have a positive impact on the Sustainable Development Goals. Mobilizing capital will be one of the key success factors. Source: WHO

Healthy Biosphere, Healthy Humans

From biodiversity to air pollution and climate change to disease transmission and the growth of antimicrobial resistance, our physical environment, shared with animals, is inextricably linked to human health and vice versa. Biodiversity loss and ecosystem damage – by both humans and a changing climate – plays an important role in the spread of infectious diseases and pandemics. In recent years outbreaks of SARS, Ebola, influenza and malaria have been attributed to human impacts on biodiversity, wildlife trade or unsustainable land use. The preservation of biodiversity is also vitally linked to molecular diversity and successful drug development. The mass extinction of plant and animal species will have untold negative impacts on human health.

  • The One Health concept recognizes that the health of people is connected to the health of animals and the environment and has been increasingly growing in prominence among policymakers, industry and other stakeholders.

  • The monetary value of goods and services, including direct health benefits, provided by ecosystems is estimated at $33 trillion per year.

  • WHO estimates that globally more than 91 percent of the world’s population are exposed to air quality levels that exceed safe limits.

  • Due to increasing use of antibiotics for humans and animals and irresponsible practices, antibiotic resistance is becoming an increasingly urgent problem. Levels of drug-resistant infections are predicted to cost the world $100 trillion in lost output between now and 2050, which is more than the current global economy.

  • The majority of all antibiotics produced are given to livestock – nearly half of all antibiotics in the UK, two-thirds in the EU, and 70 percent in the US.

  • The US Food and Drug Administration has approved only nine antibiotics in the last decade, and pharmaceutical companies including Novartis and Sanofi have steadily divested from their antibiotics research to prioritise the development of more profitable treatments for chronic illnesses.

Uncertainty about when and where epidemics will emerge means there is little financial incentive for pharmaceutical companies to bring much-needed vaccines to market.

Pandemic: Vigilance or Preparedness?

The global community is not doing enough to prepare for the next pandemic – with countries more vulnerable than ever as a result of changing population demographics, globalisation, antibiotic resistance and climate change. One hundred years on from the deadliest pandemic in history, the Spanish flu, estimates have shown that if a similar event was to occur today, the death toll could be as high as 147 million people worldwide.

  • The international pharmaceutical market is worth an estimated $1 trillion but vaccines represent only 3 percent. Uncertainty about when and where epidemics will emerge means there is little financial incentive for pharmaceutical companies to bring much-needed vaccines to market.

  • The world currently devotes little to pandemic preparedness, with Bill Gates warning it is the one area where the world is not making enough progress.

  • The US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has announced it will downsize its epidemic prevention activities.

  • The UK recently announced its first Vaccine Manufacturing Innovation Centre to enable the rapid development of medicines in the event of a UK or global epidemic.

  • Disease surveillance remains one of the most powerful tools to help predict, observe and minimise the harm caused by outbreaks and increases knowledge about what leads to pandemic outbreaks.

What to Expect in 2019

Biopharmaceutical companies will continue to focus on health promotion and prevention through innovations in product and service technologies which enable more personalized, holistic care. One Health will gain further prominence, with multiple sectors, industries and stakeholders communicating and working together to achieve better public health outcomes. System-wide approaches to tackle antibiotic resistance will also grow in reach and importance in 2019, with greater collaboration between livestock farmers, food producers, food retailers, pharmaceutical companies and policy makers at local, regional, national and global levels.

What This Means for Business

  • Support Universal Health Coverage efforts

    Research and development for future treatments will remain crucial for biopharmaceutical companies and remain the largest contribution they can make to UHC – not only through new medicines but vaccines and other prevention-related services. All companies can make sure the benefits to their employees and throughout their value chains get us closer to UHC.

  • Act as One Health

    The Interagency Coordination Group on AMR convened by the UN will share recommendations in 2019, which will guide governments and industry on the myriad issues related to antimicrobial resistance (AMR), including tools like regulation. In advance of that, life sciences companies should consider joining the AMR Industry Alliance.

  • Advocate for pandemic preparedness

    Governments are central to preparing for the next pandemic, but business can also contribute solutions including by advocating for greater incentives needed for investment in vaccines and connecting patients and care providers with public health workers via mobile telecommunications to detect and act against infection outbreaks.

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