May 28, 2020

Read time: 4min

“Science will prevail” – the pivots and pauses of pharma during a pandemic

Market Logic Team

At the first-ever Market Logic virtual insights executive roundtable, we were joined by insights executives and thought leaders from Abbott, Bayer, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Johnson&Johnson.

Among other exciting topics, they shared how their insights communities are adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s what we heard.

First do no harm: patients and doctors come first

Every panellist emphasized the importance of ethics. In these times of upheaval, practical ethics mean being particularly sensitive to stakeholders’ needs and swiftly providing them with the information they need.

At Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), for example, insights teams were quick to pause or pivot any research projects that would have detracted from frontline workers’ efforts.

At Johnson&Johnson, global insights teams helped their healthcare stakeholders prioritize their work, understand the areas where it’s still okay to do research (with caveats), and areas where postponing research makes the most sense.

Managing the present, keeping an eye on the future

While the pandemic has brought certain areas screeching to a halt, the data hasn’t stopped. It’s important, said Paul Bould from Abbott, to “keep an eye on the future while managing the present as best we can.”

Therese Glennon from BMS added that understanding which behaviors will sustain and which are temporary will inform future delivery of healthcare and life-saving medicines.

Similarly, at Bayer long-lasting behavior and attitude changes among customers is top of mind, particularly in the women’s health arena. One hypothesis that has emerged, said Annalena Lahav, is around contraception: with more uncertainty about the future, will more women be looking to postpone pregnancy?

A period of industry collaboration

The panelists noted the increased need for collaboration, both within and among organizations. In order to enable the scientific community to research potential solutions to the pandemic, BMS has opened up their entire compound library.

At Abbott, internal collaboration is driven on their market insights platform, Ignite, where the right people can come together around the right topics. Cross-industry collaboration, like that between Lysol, Hilton and the Mayo Clinic will allow hotels to put guests at ease with stringent hygienic practices.

Acceleration of discoveries and new technologies

The need for a global solution to the pandemic has thrown the pharmaceutical industry into warp speed. Joaquin Garcia-Lopez noted that at Johnson&Johnson, the typical drug development life cycle takes years.

Now they’re recruiting in a clinical trial for a vaccine candidate discovered in December! And in addition to a vaccine, trends that have been cooking in the background for over 15 years, like telemedicine and telehealth, are now in overdrive as well.

The possibilities for launching a drug in a digital environment have also accelerated – all of these developments mean an increase in agility and razor-sharp focus for the insights function across the board.

Focus on storytelling

In terms of the storytelling aspect of the insights profession, panellists noted their role as the voice of the customer within their organization. As Joaquin Garcia-Lopez said, “in times of crisis, it’s especially important to understand the experience of the people we serve – patients, doctors, and caregivers – and carry that voice into the decisions we make.”

The focus now is on doing the right thing and being a positive influence on the solution to the crisis.

“Science will prevail”

Therese Glennon ended the roundtable on a hopeful note and said that people are resilient – and science will prevail. It’s the job of insights professionals to help their organizations understand how best to benefit their stakeholders, and address new challenges and opportunities, as we enter the “new normal.”