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The Last Stand of the Brand: The Rise of Biologics
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In the movie “X-Men: The Last Stand”, the fictional pharmaceutical company, Worthington Labs, develops an inoculation to suppress the gene that gives mutants their super-powers, offering the “cure” to any mutant who desires it.  The “cure” was derived from the DNA of a young child whose powers included suppressing other mutants’ abilities.  Although this scenario is fictional, some pharmaceutical therapies are actually being manufactured today in the form of biologics.   Some characteristics of biologics are:

  • Sourced from a human, animal or micro-organism
  • Gene- or cell-based
  • Manufactured in a “living system”
  • Large, complex molecule
  • Typically focused on niche therapies
  • Difficult to reproduce
  • Very expensive and extensive R&D (research and development)

Granted, modern bioscience and biotechnology is not curing mutants of super-powers, but advancements in the pharmaceutical industry are making this fiction seem closer to reality.

According to the 2013 UPS Pain in the (Supply) Chain survey, biotech companies are planning to make a number of important investments to support this rapidly growing and advancing industry. For example, 89% of logistics executives at biotech companies plan to invest in new technologies, 76% plan to tap new global markets and 72% plan to increase their usage of new distribution channels and models over the next five years to increase efficiencies and improve competitiveness. All of these efforts will also help companies best support product development and diversify their product offerings.

The Global brand name pharmaceutical “patent cliff” is estimated to have peaked in 2012 at $33M USD.  As a result, millions of dollars’ worth of brand pharmaceuticals have gone off patent over the last decade and converted to generics.  Brand pharmaceutical companies are enacting numerous strategies to combat this loss of brand name drugs with diversification as a key plan. One of the key diversification efforts is the rise of biologics in the pharmaceutical marketplace.  Examples of well-known biologics cover a gamut of diseases from rheumatoid arthritis to breast cancer.  82% of logistics executives at biotech companies globally said they plan to launch new products over the next two years, according to this year’s survey, reflecting the continued growth of the industry- today and tomorrow.

The industry is at a turning point.  By 2018, biologics and biotech products are estimated to represent 25% of global prescription and OTC (over-the-counter) pharmaceuticals sales.  Biologics are typically higher value, more complex therapies, which will help the Brand Pharmaceutical manufacturers increase depleted market share.

Biologics are changing the pharmaceutical industry and continue to demand more complex solutions from the healthcare supply chain. They must be the focus of any 3PL and transportation operation’s future strategy for the following reasons:

  1. High quality requirements (i.e., cGMP, etc.)
  2. Great need for cold-chain capabilities with numerous temperature variants
  3. Need for premier transportation options (i.e., next day delivery, etc.)
  4. Need for advanced monitoring

In “X-Men: The Last Stand”, Magneto was determined to rid the world of the “cure”.  In real life, the “rise of biologics” is crucial to the last stand of the brand name pharmaceutical.  Biologics are here to stay.


Category: Healthcare
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