According to the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, 67,000 people in the UK work within the pharmaceutical sector, with 25,000 of these individuals working within research and development. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the industry into considerable crisis as UK pharmaceutical companies are tasked with developing a cure for this novel virus. Alongside this, panic buying at the beginning of the pandemic and shortage of medication posed additional industry challenges.
Here is a closer look at exactly how the industry has been affected in 2020.
Changes in Demand
The coronavirus pandemic has completely shifted demand in the pharmaceutical sector. Many people panic bought medication at the beginning of the pandemic, particularly those to treat chronic illness. Asthma medication purchases were reported to have soared for example, alongside drugs to treat diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol, to name but a few. This ended up leading to shortages in vital medications and put a strain on the industry’s manufacturing and supplty chains.
On top of this, hospitals had an increased demand for pain medication and drugs required to treat respiratory patients and other symptoms of COVID-19. This increase in demand placed significant stress on pharma at a time of historical importance.
Health & Safety Concerns
In addition to pharmaceutical shortages, shortages of correct PPE in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries due to an unprecedented increase in demand also created unique challenges. On top of this, with many workers in various sectors of the supply chain having to self-isolate, production has also been impacted, especially in the earlier part of of the year.
Post-pandemic, more pharmaceutical companies are looking at using high-quality and durable workwear, so employees are better protected. This is key in ensuring pharmaceutical companies stay on their feet and have enough staff at work to tackle the increased demand. It is likely the demand will stay high even after the pandemic as public opinions on health and safety have changed, with many individuals now more conscious of personal hygiene and good health.
Changes in Novel Drug Research
2020 also saw the coronavirus outbreak shift the focus within pharmaceutical research and development towards rapidly finding a medication or vaccine to treat the virus. Due to the increased pressure and urge to source a medication quickly, how studies were carried out soon changed. Of the 924 ongoing trials worldwide searching for a treatment for COVID-19, only 15% used traditional and widely accepted methods to randomise clinical trials to ensure no bias.
Long-term, the shift in research focus will lead to there being delays in other therapeutic products being released to treat non-COVID diseases. This research has all been pushed to the back of the pipeline, with pharmaceutical companies instead focusing on developing a coronavirus vaccine.