Growing and aging populations, the prevalence of chronic and increasingly complex diseases, as well as continuous advances in treatment and technology are just a few of the developments currently spurring the pharmaceutical sector. However, growing demands for transparency combined with an evolving clinical, regulatory, and business landscape is forcing the sector to adapt to new realities around research and development (R&D), pricing, supply chain, and commercial models. In this era of unprecedented health care transformation, we take a look at some of the most pressing challenges keeping leaders of some of the world’s major pharmaceutical companies awake at night:

CEO Joseph Jimenez, Novartis“Part of our view of what’s going to happen over the next ten years is, first, the global population is going to increase by about a billion people, from seven billion to eight billion. Second, 50 percent of that increase is going to be people over the age of 50. So you have not only an expanding population but an aging population.”

Andrew Witty, CEO GSK – “As a pharmaceutical company, you are vulnerable to your weakest link, which in many cases is social media. If something goes wrong the whole world knows about it quickly, which has created a certain phenomenon amongst the drugs industry. I admit, we do all occasionally make mistakes, things do go wrong. We go through all the processes with the regulators to make sure it is as safe as it can be.´

Dr. Stefan Oschmann, Executive Board Member and CEO Pharma of Merck – “One significant challenge presented by the health system policy is increasingly driven by higher cost pressure in aging societies. Another is the productivity dilemma in R&D that the pharma industry faces. Despite rising budgets for research and development in recent years, approval of new molecular entities has been in decline. And as patents for important products are expiring, global healthcare systems face many challenges, but also opportunities. Pharma companies need to monitor these changes closely and be prepared for the impact they may have.”

Tom Heyman, CEO of Janssen (J&J) – “In our industry, the risks are huge. It takes up to twelve years to discover and market a new product, which can easily cost $ 1.7 billion. If something goes wrong, then it’s back to square one.”

Severin Schwan, CEO Roche Holding AG“We need a culture where people take risks because if you don’t take risks, you won’t have breakthrough innovation.” … “The emphasis on breakthrough medicines, which has characterized our history, remains core to our strategy today. If we fail in innovation, we fail as a company.”

Lars Rebien Sørensen, CEO Novo Nordisk AG“If we keep polluting, stricter regulations will be imposed, and energy consumption will become more costly. The same thing applies on the social side. If we don’t treat employees well, if we don’t behave as good corporate citizens in our local communities, and if we don’t provide inexpensive products for poorer countries, governments will impose regulations on us that will end up being very costly.”

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