Tech Talk: A Q&A with Oracle's Arvindh Balakrishnan - Pharmaceutical Technology

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Tech Talk: A Q&A with Oracle's Arvindh Balakrishnan

The senior director of Oracle's Life Sciences Business Unit tackles some of the technical issues regarding regulatory standardization, software integration, and the trend toward virtualization, among other things.

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Pharmaceutical Technology


Q. What are the top three questions that your helpdesk gets from users in the pharmaceutical industry? And why do you think those are the most-asked questions?

Of the number of service requests logged in our support applications, very few actually require a software "patch." The vast majority of issues can be resolved by more aggressive end-user training. We are attempting to integrate end-user training with the application footprint with products such as the Oracle User Productivity Kit, a synchronized, customizable solution that helps organizations quickly create the critical documentation, training, and support materials needed to drive project team and user productivity throughout the life cycle of a user's software.

Q. What technology should be used more by members of the pharmaceutical industry in their 'supply-chain' business? Do you see the 'auto replenishment' feature being used in drug making?

Understanding downstream supply chain and 'demand' more accurately is a key area of focus for the pharmaceutical industry. Auto-replenishment (loosely called 'KanBan') is already used for various direct materials and will continue to be adopted by the industry.

Q. What advice can you offer the pharmaceutical industry about facing the challenges of counterfeiting?

Electronic pedigrees and RFID [radio frequency identification] solutions will greatly reduce the problems of counterfeits, grey-market sales, diversions and so on. In addition, product recalls, returns, chargebacks, and the like are all simplified and can be sources of significant savings through the adoption of such technology.

Q. Can you talk more about how RFID is used in the pharmaceutical industry?

RFID is important from two perspectives. First, it is an efficient technology that can allow a large pallet of finished products to be "scanned" in a single pass without having to unpack boxes and scan bottles one by one. Secondly, RFID is accurate, and can enable supply-chain accuracy by automating supply-chain inventory information management. As the cost of RFID chips and scanners drop, we anticipate worldwide adoption of these technologies—not just across the supply chain, but also within manufacturing plants.

Q. How is software being used in clinical trials?

Companies are looking for a clinical platform that can manage all clinical operations in a consolidated and integrated technology base. This is becoming even more important as companies are buying pipeline from others (or are licensing them from biotechs), or are merging with and acquiring other companies. Because clinical operations are the vital bloodline of these companies, it is strategically important to support this area with a comprehensive solution footprint and an overarching business intelligence approach. Our customers are asking the software industry for a comprehensive solution footprint that includes clinical trial management, clinical supplies management, financial management, investigator relationship management, remote data capture and clinical data management, product safety management, and overall clinical intelligence.

Arvindh Balakrishnan is senior director of the Life Sciences Business Unit at Oracle,


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