Reality Check

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Pharmaceutical Technology Europe

Pharmaceutical Technology Europe, Pharmaceutical Technology Europe-11-01-2005, Volume 17, Issue 11

The human race will have colonized Mars long before the pharmaceutical industry brings itself into the 21st century.

We are now well into the 21st century, and technology across a whole host of industries is moving at a breathtaking pace. Mobile phones can pretty much do anything; the next generation of games consoles will be released either side of Christmas; computers continue to get faster and smaller; and even the way we buy our music is being fundamentally questioned as more and more people choose to download rather than go into a shop and buy CDs.

But why does the pharmaceutical industry give the impression that it is one of the few industries, if not the only one, that seems to be stuck in a time warp? Perhaps that's because it is.


For example, PAT is something that the automotive industry put into practice more than 20 years ago, with many other industries following suit shortly after. The pharmaceutical industry has only recently realized the benefits of PAT, with FDA putting together a package of "guidelines" that suggest PAT can be implemented, but the feeling in the industry is that no one is quite sure how to put it into practice. Whereas other industries adopted PAT quicker than you could say MP3 player, the pharmaceutical sector is, as usual, worried about the "cost implications".

I believe it's about time the pharmaceutical industry has a good long look at itself and works out how best to bring itself into the modern era. Do you think that in 50 years' time drugs will still take as long to discover and manufacture as they do now? If you look at the way this industry operates, and more importantly the way it is regulated, then the answer is probably yes. In the pharmaceutical industry, the words "change" and "modernize" are shunned.

Surely, pharma must be looking at the next generation of manufacturing processes. However, it wouldn't surprise me if the human race has colonized Mars long before this industry brings itself into the 21st century. Who is to blame? Regulatory authorities for sure, but I will also point a finger at politicians — two groups linked by their love of red tape. It's what keeps them in their jobs.

Hopefully, pharma will realize that money invested now to update and modernize the industry will reap benefits in the future. Shouldn't it be that where pharma leads, others must follow — and not the other way around?