Trials and Triumphs of the Year

Updated: 5 days ago


Words by Cheyenne Eugene

In this round up, GOLD asks recent podcast guests to share their thoughts on the past year in the pharmaceutical industry, and reflect on the standout challenges, trends and achievements from 2021


Anyone would agree with the sentiment that it has been an extraordinary year for the pharmaceutical industry. To gain some inside perspective, guests from the EMG GOLD Podcast were asked to share their industry highlights from the past year in pharma. Here’s what they had to say...


The digital transformation witnessed by the industry claimed one of the top spots. Matt Atkinson, Global Projects Director, Reuters Events: Pharma, says: “The standout has been the shift to hybrid and a commitment to digital operations. I think [digital] opens so many new doors for delivering content to HCPs, but in the way that they want to be engaged with. You’re going to give them the opportunity to digest content and engage in a way that works for them.” Not only does this provide an opportunity to build strong relationships with HCPs, Atkinson says, “it allows them to deliver in new ways for patients”, which can only be a good thing.


Digital adoption has also served as a saving grace for medical education, according to Edmond Chan, Senior Director, Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and Therapeutic Area Lead, Haematology, Janssen. He says that converting large, in-person meetings into highly-successful virtual meetings has ensured “the continuation of critical scientific discussions, and also the ability to share breakthrough scientific data despite the limitations”. Chan also expresses his awe at “the agility and adoption into the new world, and how we maximised our impact in a digital environment”.


In this so-called ‘new world’, very little looks the same. One of the most blatant changes was a seismic shift in workplace structures and cultures. The fall of the ‘9-5’ office inhabitant left space for the rise of hybrid working. “People are going back into the office, they are travelling a little bit and many have decided to stay in their homes, only coming into the office when needed,” highlights Julie Ross, President, Advanced Clinical. “Our results show that in this return-to-work-post-pandemic mode, our employee retention rate is about 94%, which is really unheard of in the [pharma industry],” Ross continues.


Resilient and committed teams grew from the global crisis, as did unparalleled levels of collaboration across the industry. “Companies that would usually compete with each other were collaborating,” recalls Carol Lynch, Chief Business Officer, Sandoz. “It made me really proud of our industry.” Indeed, pharma companies harmonised with each other and worked together to navigate the uncertainty of the pandemic, with unprecedented success. Megan Reutin, Global Head of Omnichannel Analytics, Grünenthal Group, celebrates the outcome of these partnerships. “I was completely blown away by the speed by which the industry was able to develop multiple vaccines worldwide, not only for a new virus and variants, but because it’s using a variety of different technologies and methods, including mRNA,” she says.


Due to rapid transformation, workforce resilience and agility, and cross-company collaboration, an industry that was once considered slow paced and rigid is now leading the way. It is vital that the lessons from this era are leveraged, and as the year draws to a close, it’s the perfect time for reflection and resolution. Clare Hague, Senior Director, Haematology Market Access, EMEA, Janssen, urges the industry to consider: “What were the best things that we learned? What are the things that we want to keep going and using? And what are the things that we would like to stop doing?” Looking ahead to 2022, the industry must celebrate its achievements, assess its learnings and set a course for future success.


A roundtable review of 2021


When asked to look back on the year in our final podcast of 2021, Nancy Globus, Addison Whitney; Dr Jerome Kim, International Vaccine Institute; and Emma Roffe, Takeda UK, offered some incredibly insightful comments


Reflecting on her thoughts regarding the pharmaceutical industry’s biggest achievement of 2021, Nancy brought to attention its ability to maintain focus on products not related to the treatment of COVID-19 in the midst of the pandemic. While the world was still adjusting to a global virus, other key breakthroughs in medicine were still being achieved – such as the World Health Organization's approval of a malaria vaccine for children in sub-Saharan Africa.


Emma went on to discuss the improved perception of pharma over the year, crediting the role COVID-19 treatments had to play in bringing this about. The pandemic forced the public to take a closer look at their health, and encouraged everyone to look upon pharma with a more thankful eye for bringing about remedies and vaccinations.


Looking to 2022, Jerome offered his perspective on what the industry could be facing in the near future. He delved into his understanding of future successes for the industry through the rollout of vaccinations to all countries of the world, and highlighted the need for all countries to have the means and abilities to vaccinate, with the end goal of worldwide vaccination in sight.


To listen to the full episode and hear the other opinions and insights GOLD's guests had to offer, click here.