2018 Pharmaceutical Trends and 2019 Outlook

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After failed repeal of Obamacare in 2017 and again in 2018, the ACA may very well be here to stay. Cost savings on drugs and product growth will have to come from new areas of drug discovery and product launches. Pharmaceutical company’s hiring pace picked up along with the economy and the stock market. In 2019 more resources will be needed for workforce planning as new biosimilars and specialty products hit the market with new launch strategies; including payer access and reimbursement plans. 2019 is looking to be a positive and exciting time for anyone seeking a career in the pharmaceutical industry.

Top 5 Pharmaceutical Trends in 2018


With some of the world’s best-known biologics continuing to face patent expiration in the coming years, the biosimilars market is set for continued growth. We estimate sales will potentially triple in size to $15 billion by 2020. The European market is expected to continue to mature and the US market offers opportunities, despite many practical challenges. On both sides of the Atlantic, however, downward price pressure suggests competition will be intense. As an example AbbVie’s Humira is still gaining revenues as the brand while biosimilars are entering the marketplace globally even with the patent expiration.

Emerging Markets

The growing importance of emerging markets can no longer be ignored, in terms of where the pharmaceutical industry is turning for growth and profitability. The increased spending power of these so-called “pharmerging” markets means that new pharma products need to be launched on a more global scale than ever before. It is expected that this year’s pharmerging markets will increasingly influence the global strategy for the pharmaceutical industry and be one of the year’s biggest pharmaceutical trends.

Opioid Epidemic Acknowledged

Slightly less than 1% of all Americans who died in 1968 lost their lives while serving in the Vietnam War. Yet even the toll of that conflict’s bloodiest year was less significant than that being caused by the opioid epidemic. According to new research, 1.5% of all American deaths in 2016 were attributable to opioids.

New treatment awareness monitoring and elimination of unnecessary opioid usage has finally caught up to the epidemic. An optimistic future where pain is managed without addiction seems likely.

Collaboration/Joint Ventures Between BioPharmas

There is an increasing willingness for parties to enter joint venture deals. These deals enable both parties to benefit from the upside of a big product win, whereas traditional licensing deals forfeit upside for near term upfront, milestone and royalty payments. Joint venture partnering allows the parties to securitize value and reduce risk, but keep a part of the potential upside should the product reach the market. Even if the licensor does not commercialize the project they can either sell those rights to the licensee partner or another partner for an amount higher than would have been achieved at an earlier stage licensing deal. Pharmaceutical trends and changes in financing will continue to drive the market in 2019.

Access and Affordability

In terms of market access, the rising cost of healthcare is being met by increasing demands for new evidence and definitions of positive health outcomes. As PricewaterhouseCoopers commented in their report: “The growing conflict between drug access and affordability will create fresh pressure for data that show these expensive medications work better than others and are worth the premium.”

Communicating new evidence about drug value to key stakeholders – insurers, physicians and patients – will require additional skills and techniques. Account managers, sales reps and patient engagement specialists will need to collaborate with quantitative analysts or bio-informaticists to tailor new drug information for each different audience. By using new and sophisticated apps, pharma companies in the pharmaceutical industry will be able to customize the new drug information much more quickly and easily, and demonstrate value to payers in new and engaging ways.

Top 5 Pharmaceutical Trends for 2019

Company Stock Prices Rebound

The Trump effect on the stock market has propelled biotech and pharma stocks higher. Tariffs and trade wars will settle down and the pharma market will rebound. Trump has been trying to introduce European socialized drug pricing to the US Market with little to no success and support.

Pharmerging Markets

IQVIA coined the term pharmerging to denote the most promising emerging markets. The U.S. and the pharmerging markets are expected to account for more than 60% of sales and 80% of sales growth in 2018. The global pharmaceutical market is projected to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4-7% in 2018 and reach $1.3 trillion in sales.

New Drug Pricing and Reimbursement Approaches

The health care payment landscape continues to shift from a quantity-based, fee-for-service model to a value-based system that rewards providers for quality outcomes and reduced costs. Prescription medications consume an estimated 17% of total health care costs. Drug manufacturers can continue to expect pressure to reduce costs for consumers.  This is one of the most significant and evolving pharmaceutical trends for 2019.

Top Product Areas

Biosimilars will continue their hockey stick growth. Immuno-oncology as driven by personalized medicine and companion diagnostics will be a larger and larger part of cancer care. Rare disease will also continue to be the top therapeutic areas for development, promotion and hiring in 2019.

Shifting Market Share

For the global pharmaceutical industry moderate growth over the next five years should be the norm. But the new product growth in specialty markets is a trend that is shifting market share from the large pharmaceutical companies to the mid-sized pharmaceutical companies creating different career options for the more entrepreneurial candidates.  Interesting in taking advantage of this pharmaceutical trend for your career?

We would be happy to discuss any of these trends or your needs for 2019. As always, Smith Hanley Associates is happy to be your recruiting resource for Commercial and Clinical opportunities in healthcare.


Nancy Ragonese,  Sales Practice Lead

nragonese@smithhanley.com, 203-319-4315


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