Rising prices and bad behaviour are healthcare's watchwords for 2018

Healthcare is facing several comms challenges in the year to come, from getting pricing models right to the implications of Brexit.

Managing corporate reputation will be vital in healthcare in 2018, says Nicole Yost
Managing corporate reputation will be vital in healthcare in 2018, says Nicole Yost

The holiday season is over, everyone is back to work and our New Year’s resolutions are just about holding up. What can we look forward to for the year ahead in the healthcare sector?

Push back against rising drug prices

Pricing is probably the single biggest challenge facing companies working in drug development today.

We’ve seen targeted drugs and a move towards personalised therapies in recent years and some gene therapies – CAR-Ts, Luxturna, Strimvelis  – have got the nod from regulators in 2017.

There are currently around 1,000 gene therapy trials ongoing. Some of them will offer potentially curative treatment options. This may require pharma to rethink its pricing model, leading to complex discussions about what constitutes value.

It would be great to see the industry take this on and find creative solutions to these complex pricing challenges.

This leads us to reputation management. Pricing is just one area where pharma is questioned by experts and the public.

Managing corporate reputation in 2018 will be vital

While it hasn’t always been the case, the role of corporate brands regarding products will become more important.

Why? The bad behaviour of some companies has tarnished the industry, there is a lack of transparency in drug development, there are ongoing challenges around the cost of medicines, questions on access initiatives and pharma doing good.

The increasing use of social media means it is harder to manage the reputation of companies and brands. Pharma’s tardiness to engage and manage this properly has not helped.

Reputation is also a vital asset in collaboration. Research collaborations and partnerships have become the lifeblood of many ailing drug pipelines. Biotech, academia and other partners are being more choosy about who they work with.

The rise and rise of med-tech

Staying with collaborations, it will be interesting to see which players and partnerships bring true innovation in the med-tech space in the year ahead.

VR, AR, AI and their applications in healthcare have been much hyped and there have been some notable successes in using VR in surgery and medical training.

The entry of non-traditional players in the healthcare space could also prove genuinely interesting.

Brexit and uncertainty

As for the implications of Brexit, all that seems to be certain is that the future is uncertain. Many experts fear talent will be lost from the NHS and the influential European Medicines Agency is relocating to Amsterdam from London.

Time will tell what the full effects of leaving the EU will be for the UK, but from laboratory bench to bedside there will be challenges.

Nicole Yost is head of healthcare at Porter Novelli

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