Why a secure management strategy is just the tonic for pharmaceutical data

Pete Amps, Account Executive and Enterprise Sales, Commvault

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The pharmaceutical industry has faced tougher challenges this year than ever before, as have many industries. But where some businesses have been able to focus purely on keeping afloat, many pharmaceuticals have also been working to develop revolutionary treatments and vaccines for COVID-19. The increased use of digital technologies over recent years has enabled the industry to utilise data to provide better services – collaboration is quicker and solutions can be developed more rapidly. This data has held even greater importance in 2020, as employees have been able to connect with each other online and continue their life-saving work. 

But to take full advantage of this data, companies need to have an effective data management solution in place that can help keep data organised, provide secure backup and recovery measures in case of downtime, and help meet strict compliance regulations. Alongside these, solutions must be cost-effective to ensure the business isn’t losing out. It’s important therefore that IT teams understand the value a data management system can bring and how to choose the one for them.

Data: the crown jewels of pharmaceuticals

In today’s digital society, data is something that no pharmaceutical company can survive without – it’s the lifeblood that keeps them moving. As mentioned, it holds this value for multiple reasons:

  • Better responses to patients – Data can help researchers to learn how patients react to different therapies and consequently develop them  
  • Broader medical uses – Developments in technology are driving forward solutions such as medical apps to help with early screening diagnosis
  • More effective partnerships – Sharing data with other organisations has huge implications; just this year we’ve seen how pharmaceutical companies are collaborating with universities to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, for example
  • Developments for generations – Data is vital for creating new vaccines and treatments, being able to test them on patients and monitor the results, and then eventually scale up manufacturing

The cloud is increasingly being seen as an ideal solution for pharmaceuticals to help support these needs by enabling better collaboration with other experts, keeping their data secure, and also reducing costs for data storage on-premises. However, with this migration comes increased challenges around regulations and compliance.

Additionally, artificial intelligence (AI) is also being adopted more readily to discover and analyse new insights from existing data. For example, AI can learn from patterns and trends in data to predict future outcomes more accurately, speeding up the development process. Implementing AI for some of the simple but time-consuming admin tasks can also allow employees to spend more time on actions that require a human focus.

With all of these exciting uses, it’s easy to see why data is so crucial – but, as the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility.

Meeting compliance without compromising cost 

Two of the toughest challenges that all pharmaceutical companies face are compliance and cost – you need to meet strict regulations, but without breaking the bank. Both are important aspects of business, and both can have a serious impact on profits. 

Regulatory compliance is key. All processes must meet the highest standard of regulations to keep sensitive data secure and prevent any repercussions for mismanagement. In particular, data from patients or those taking part in new drugs trials must be kept completely confidential, and in many cases for trials the data needs to be anonymised. However, at the same time, the documented results of each patient must be linked to their name so that in the event of a medical concern being identified, they know exactly who to inform. 

The growth in data being created by devices and wearables is also presenting a new challenge, with regulatory bodies issuing strict guidelines around how that data is collected, transmitted and stored. Failing to comply with any data regulations, such as GDPR, FDA (Food and Drug Administration) or MCA (Medicines Control Agency), can be costly – not just in fines, but in the potential halting of drug production and/or licence suspension which could be devastating to an organisation.

Balancing this is also the pressure on companies to keep costs down wherever possible, and this is often a reason why data management can be further down the priority list. But in business, you often need to spend a little more money to get a better ROI in the long term. Unfortunately, budgets are usually stretched too tight for large investments to be made in a business’ future rather than the present. Particularly this year, businesses across every industry are trying to find cheaper ways to provide the same service to customers. When it comes to data management, it’s key to find a provider that can offer the protection this industry requires.

What data management can offer 

Data management brings a range of benefits to a company, and can ultimately improve a business’ time to market and time to value by accelerating the development pipelines of new products. Overall though, data management is crucial for four main reasons: 

  1. Data protection and security – Pharmaceutical data must be protected from both internal and external cyberthreats, and there should be accurate backups kept up-to-date that can restore this data should downtime occur for any reason.

  1. Operational resiliency – Data management solutions need to help build up resilience in a business so that mistakes can be learned from and not made again. Overall this improves the day-to-day running of the business and prevents future disruptions.

  1. Data portability and agility – Being able to automate a workflow to go from site A to site B is very important. Regardless of whether it’s on-premises, in the cloud, or both, data needs to be able to be moved easily and quickly. 

  1. Continuous cost reduction – Ultimately, cost will always be a main factor. But while a data management solution will always cost the business money, a good solution will save money in the long term, by helping implement the automation of simple tasks and consolidating other repetitive tasks. 

Today, pharmaceutical companies are leading the fight against COVID-19, with researchers and scientists collaborating with universities to develop treatments and vaccines. To do this, their data is in use 24/7, and therefore it needs to be managed with expert care. As success gets closer every day, a data management solution that can keep all of this information in line is vital. 

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