New Year, New Questions

Published on: 
Pharmaceutical Technology, Pharmaceutical Technology-01-02-2018, Volume 42, Issue 1
Pages: 10

Bio/pharma professionals manage expectations amid industry uncertainty.

In the first year of the Trump administration, people have learned to expect the unexpected. Executive orders and policy statements issued by the administration in the first few months of 2017 were at times contradictory and conflicted with bio/pharma operations.

President Trump promised to streamline FDA approvals, promote market-based reforms to create competition and lower drug prices, and cut regulations. A temporary hiring freeze, however, delayed FDA from filling hundreds of positions needed to fulfill agency goals. The administration’s agenda to move drug manufacturing back to the United States from cheaper offshore locations ran counter to the goal of reducing drug prices (1). A directive to curb immigration from certain regions spurred worry about restrictions on foreign-born researchers working in the US (2).

The confirmation of Scott Gottlieb as FDA commissioner provided some stability for the agency, as did renewal of the user fee programs. The slashing of corporate taxes at the end of 2017 promised more financial options for bio/pharma companies.

Uncertainties surrounding the healthcare reform and funding for Medicaid and children’s health programs lingered as 2018 began. The threat of drug shortages continued as Puerto Rico, a major pharma manufacturing region, struggled to recover from the effects of Hurricane Maria (3).

While such macro events may be beyond the control of most bio/pharma professionals, see daily business operations up close and form opinions about the outlook for 2018.

Outlook from the front line

Pharmaceutical Technology sampled opinions of more than 480 bio/pharma professionals from around the world (4) about job security, trends in the industry, how changes impact their daily work, and future business prospects. The survey was conducted in September and October 2017.


Fewer respondents (39%) said business at their company increased in 2017 compared with 2016 (44%) (5); however, fewer (14.9%) respondents also said business decreased in 2017 compared with 2016 (19.3%). The number of respondents reporting a downsizing was up slightly (17.9% in 2017 vs. 16.9% in 2016). The percentage of workers reporting work moving to contract service providers was up slightly (12.5% in 2017 vs. 10.5% in 2016).

Respondents were slightly less upbeat about the prospects of business improvements at their companies; 54.2% predicted that their company’s business would improve in 2018, compared to 59.1% predicting improvements for 2017. The percentage predicting business would decline in the next year (14%) was slightly higher than the previous year.

Prognosis for the industry

The one-year outlook for the bio/pharmaceutical industry as a whole was a bit more positive after sliding in recent years. More than half (54.2%) of respondents said business would improve for 2015; however, only 47.8% expected improvement in 2016 and 45.6% in 2017. For 2018, 47.6% expressed a positive one-year outlook.

For the longer term (five years), respondents were less optimistic than the previous year. Fewer respondents said business would improve (59.3% in 2017 compared with 63.3% in 2016). However, fewer respondents anticipated declines in business and more expected business stability in the longer term.


1. J. Wechsler, “Does Pharma Really Want to Overhaul FDA?, Feb. 1, 2017.
2. C. Hroncich, “Biotech Executives Express Concern Over Immigration Order,”, Feb. 10, 2017
3. “FDA Commissioner Gottlieb Gives Update on Saline and Amino Acid Shortages,”, Jan. 5, 2018.
4. 2017 Pharmaceutical Technology/Pharmaceutical Technology Europe Annual Employment Survey.
5. 2016 Pharmaceutical Technology/Pharmaceutical Technology Europe Annual Employment Survey.

Article Details

Pharmaceutical Technology
Vol. 42, No. 1
January 2018
Page: 10


When referring to this article, please cite it as R. Peters, " New Year, New Questions," Pharmaceutical Technology 42 (1) 2018.