It's all about the characteristics, the attributes and all the different facts about the product. And then as that product becomes part of a larger products as well. So, absolutely, having tight control and visibility through the supply chain is critical.
You have a depth of data, rather than a broad width of data. So, the critical information isn’t going to apply to hundreds of thousands of records, it's detail about one particular product. So for example with vaccines, can they move those with products of the same nature – say milk – in the same container? So again, it's not volumes of data. It's just being very, very specific and accurate with the data being used.
I know they’re looking at displaying information like CO2 or air miles per packet into the food industry - can you see that being introduced into pharma too?
Yes, and I think that's going to be driven by the consumer, or patients. Consumers now have a huge interest in recyclable packaging and how products are manufactured. That consumer awareness means the boards of pharma companies are very, very keen on showing that they are looking to play their part.
So far we've talked about getting the basics right – what are your thoughts on innovation in pharma?
I think the ability to innovate comes back to the integrity of the data source. One of the things that I believe is on the horizon for a lot of pharma companies is blockchain. Particularly the trusted handoff of data – if you can use blockchain and artificial intelligence to record the transaction of data from one entity to another, you know that you can rely on that data.
What are your thoughts on 'fast data' and reducing the lead time between demand at the front end from patients to manufacturers and the whole chain in between?
Just look at the pandemic and how quickly they were able to move through the phases of clinical trials to get that information out there.
A lot of the learning and the knowledge doesn't stop once the product is released. They have to maintain data sources that say, “have we had any adverse reactions to this particular product?” and that goes on throughout its entire life cycle. The volume of information that's held within those data sources is so valuable if it can stop being ‘data’ and start to be used as information and knowledge for other people within the process.
There’s a certain level of maturity that you need to get to in the way your data is managed. If you do it too early and it's not trusted then applying innovative solutions such as blockchain technology means it'll be secure and it'll be auditable, but it'll still be the wrong data at heart.
And we’ve all got horror stories of what happens when people make decisions based on that wrong data and the amounts of money that can be just thrown away and wasted, particularly around IT projects that haven't necessarily been given the best start in life. By looking at some of the data to begin with, and sitting down and working out what was necessary, would save an awful lot of money.
Finally, what are some of the other areas where you see data management being important in pharma?
The amount of information that exists about people’s health. Those records are highly confidential, and consumers patients don't want companies to know too much about them. However, pharmaceutical companies need vast, vast volumes of data about people to develop new products. That means they must keep a strong focus on the anonymity of some of that data so that they can't identify individual people. That applies from clinical trials all the way through to a product where they have ADR's (adverse drug reactions). Those things are vital. That integrity, again, is where the pharmaceutical companies see themselves being very much risk averse.
Yes, quite – there’s still a balance that we want those big data sets to be able to get insights, but they have to be delivered incredibly securely, and in a way that maintains confidentiality.
Also, confidentially in data plays a role for the pharmaceutical companies themselves. They have huge investment made in research and development and want to protect that information and that knowledge so that it's not flowing out the door to a competitor. And again, I think some of the areas that technology can assist in is to ensure who has access to this.