How calls for transparency can transform pharma companies

Demands are mounting for more visibility into how drugs are developed, priced, and distributed. Here’s what companies can do to improve pharma transparency.

pharmaceutical meds in a clear container from above, symbolizing pharma transparency

In a recent Gallup poll, Americans rated their perception of the pharmaceutical industry lowest among 25 of the most prominent industries, with 58% of participants holding a negative view. In the UK, 72% of respondents to a PatientView survey reported a negative view of the pharma industry. According to PwC’s Health Research Institute, this “mistrust and reputational decline” has been driven principally by “a lack of accurate information.” But that’s not all: consumer concerns about pharma transparency also stem from skyrocketing prices, drug counterfeiting, physicians and hospitals not disclosing their relationships with manufacturers, and manufacturers not sharing the results of clinical trials.

Fortunately, there’s a way to meet legal and reputational requirements for full disclosure. As PwC explains, “Companies can enhance stakeholder trust if they deliberately sharpen… the public’s view of the development process, drug risk and benefit information and drug cost and value data.”

So how are world-class pharma companies improving their transparency?

The first step is automation.

The problems with drug pricing, supply chains, and information sharing 

Closeup of hands in lab gloves holding syringe with test tubes and other lab equipment in the background

Demands continue to mount for more visibility into how drugs are developed, priced, and distributed. 

Skyrocketing prices

As Dr. Daniel E. Baker wrote in the independent, peer-reviewed journal Hospital Pharmacy in 2017, “New drugs have almost always come with a higher price to help offset the cost of their research and development and all the others that don’t make it to market.” 

However, pharma companies have historically hid pricing decisions, weakening public trust — and with more people falling ill and struggling financially amid the global pandemic, calls for fair pricing and pricing transparency have never been louder. 

Counterfeiting infecting the supply chain

In the pharmaceutical industry, most organisations “have complex supply chains that are under-utilised, inefficient and ill-equipped,” requiring what PwC has called “a radical overhaul.” COVID-19 shutdowns have strained supply chains further, and counterfeiting has overwhelmed pharma companies and international watchdog organisations for years. In fact, the World Health Organisation (WHO) surveyed 88 countries and received “reports from all over the globe, from countries rich and poor… on all types of products, both innovative or generic, expensive or not,” that are being counterfeited, including pills, vaccines, and diagnostic kits.

A lack of information

The reputation of pharma companies, as well as the medical field as a whole, has been damaged by a lack of transparency from doctors and hospitals about their relationships with manufacturers, and from manufacturers regarding the results of their clinical trials. This inspired the creation of the Good Pharma Scorecard in 2015, through which pharma companies would be held accountable to the public. Within four years, several companies’ data-sharing practices were already exceeding the established standards. While this is likely improving the public standing of the companies that rank highly on the Scorecard, it could be catastrophic for those that fail to improve their practices.

Answering the calls by automating accounts payable and accounts receivable

Calls for transparency present opportunities to strengthen and restore your relationships with customers — and outperform your competitors.

While manual AP and AR processes are antiquated, inefficient, costly, and unscalable, e-invoicing and straight-through processing eliminate human intervention, enabling full visibility and producing significant cost savings and other benefits that are critically important in a hypercompetitive industry like pharmaceuticals.

Learn how e-invoicing can facilitate pharma transparency, increase efficiency, and save you money: download the Tungsten Network whitepaper