The Canadian pharmaceutical industry is going through major changes, resulting in unavoidable repercussions on the strategies of pharmaceutical companies and their structure. The main factors are the spread of generics, the emergence of new competitors (Asia can now boast that it has the knowledge, as well as low prices), the reform of the health care system and the expiry of many patents. Each link in the drug chain is involved in this reorganization, which also affects the human capital of firms. To avoid a decline, the pharmaceutical industry needs to forge profitable alliances, create new occupations, and extends its employees’ skills.
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT: A CRUCIAL PHASE
HAVE R&D WORK MORE CLOSELY WITH MARKETING
Too often, one imagines scientists holed up in their laboratory, separate from the company’s other departments. R&D needs to be more involved in the whole drug manufacturing process, particularly marketing. This synergy between R&D and marketing would enhance sales. Some research products could find opportunities outside the company, while marketing could support complementary products developed by another firm. It is thus important for companies to focus their efforts on activities with a high added value.
R&D would be even stronger and more profitable if it were to forge alliances with service firms to take advantage of new techniques and expertise, and hence ramp up its innovativeness. To properly conduct these complex projects, new profiles are now in demand: project managers, subcontracting managers or planners, and patent and licensing specialists.
BIOTECH PARTNERSHIPS: A QUESTION OF SURVIVAL
These companies have the particularity of being very young, with high failure rates, especially in the preclinical (90%) and clinical test phases (80%). There are a number of benefits for them in partnering with pharmaceutical companies including access to venture capital, the stock market, production capacity, a highly skilled workforce and a more extensive marketing network.
PRODUCTION: MAKE WAY FOR SPECIALISTS
EXPERIENCED HUMAN CAPITAL
The impact of technology on human capital is important in the production department. For example, the streamlining and automation of manufacturing has increased the demand for technicians and engineers specializing in automation and metrology. The same holds true for control, which is exercized by continually more innovative equipment; control laboratories use technicians with experience in these new methods (e.g. flow cytometry). Project managers, who are responsible for complex engineering projects with increasingly complex technologies, are required to have a dual profile: part pharmacist and engineer. They should be fluent in the use of project management and workflow software to supervise the work of all project team members.
SUBCONTRACTING: A STRATEGIC CHOICE
Pharmaceutical companies no longer consider subcontracting an occasional necessity, e.g. in periods of high activity, but a true strategic choice. Firms use it at various stages of the process: pharmaceutical development, manufacturing, packaging and inventory. New skills and jobs are therefore appearing to optimize subcontracting: supply managers improve lead times, reduce costs and control inventory. Supply chain specialists interface between marketing, production, sales and customers. Procurement skills and a familiarity with pharmaceutical industry jobs are highly recommended.
SALES AND MARKETING: THE KEY
The primordial role played by sales and marketing has intensified since the reduction in the patent protection period. This has led to a demand by pharmaceutical companies for pharmacists, doctors and scientists with marketing skills—ideally abroad—with a global view of the health care system and the required aptitudes to lead multidisciplinary teams. Independence and flexibility are also assets in order to adapt to the often complex structure of large pharma groups.
If the Canadian pharmaceutical industry wants to survive, rather than simply endure the changes wrought by business cycle and structural conditions, it must adapt to the new order by giving its employees new duties, responsibilities and obligations. After that, it will be up to employees to specialize, and to upgrade their training in order to stand out, since a CV showing nothing new over the past five years is almost unheard-of in the pharmaceutical industry.