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Balancing the Needs of Today with the Opportunities of Tomorrow
11/10/2021

By Heidi Hunter, President, Cardinal Health Specialty Solutions

Lately, I’ve been talking with colleagues about how to find the balance between focusing on the needs of the here-and-now, while also giving time and energy to the future initiatives and innovations that will fuel our customers’ growth and support future patient needs. It’s a delicate balance, and it can sometimes make leaders feel stretched.

Nevertheless, mastering the equilibrium between today and tomorrow is key to success, particularly in an industry like specialty pharmaceuticals where the dynamics are shifting quickly and trends that were seen as “space-age” just a few years ago are now part of our present reality.

Consider, as an example, synthetic messenger RNA (mRNA) technology. For years, mRNA technology was viewed as a promising idea that might produce better therapies someday in the future. But the rapid development and approval of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines using mRNA made this advancement a reality—and now, just a year after the first mRNA vaccines received emergency use authorization, a new generation of mRNA drugs is on verge of transforming medicine.

The rapid pace of change and innovation in healthcare is well understood by our team in Cardinal Health Specialty Solutions. We are constantly working to ensure that while we focus on the near-term needs of patients, healthcare providers and drug developers, we are also looking forward and making the investments to ensure we are positioned to support the future needs of healthcare. Below are three examples of areas where we are doing this:

Real-world evidence. The FDA has been moving to include more real-world evidence in regulatory filings since the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act in 2016 – but recent pressure to speed up drug development timelines has put even more focus on the role the RWE can play in accelerating clinical trials, reducing research costs and making scientific advances more accessible to patients. Our team has been innovating in RWE for years and we recently received a grant from the FDA  to research whether RWE can be standardized for use in Lymphoma trials. This work may play a key role in shaping how the FDA evaluates RWE in the future, while also setting up our team to play an expanded role in developing RWE research.

Biosimilars. While some biosimilars have been available in the U.S. since 2015, uptake has been slower than expected. But, as I wrote about last week, with the recent approval of insulin biosimilars and evolving government policies, the U.S. may now be at tipping point where adoption could rapidly accelerate. As adoption of biosimilars increases, Cardinal Health is taking steps to support the next phase of biosimilar growth. We are bringing together our core capabilities – which include Specialty logistics and distribution, practice management, patient access support, retail pharmacy, and retail services – to not only develop new solutions that expand biosimilar adoption, but also deliver greater value to patients and the healthcare system.

Cell and gene therapies. The U.S. cell and gene therapy products market will significantly grow over the next five years, thanks to a robust pipeline of new therapies in clinical development. The Cardinal Health team is already supporting many of these advanced therapies with regulatory consulting, logistics and patient support. To prepare for future growth, we are also making key investments, including expanded infrastructure and technology offerings, and key partnerships – such as our relationship with Vineti – to ensure that we are prepared to meet the unique clinical and commercial needs of these innovative therapies in the future.

Balancing the priorities of today with the opportunities of tomorrow is rarely easy, but as the speed of change in healthcare accelerates, it will be increasingly important for success. How is your business focusing on both the present and the future to drive growth?

As President of Cardinal Health Specialty Solutions, Heidi Hunter leads the specialty healthcare business that helps healthcare providers and pharmaceutical companies optimize business success and drive improved patient care. She is an accomplished global healthcare leader with deep experience in innovation, development and commercialization of specialty pharmaceuticals. 

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