Software gives drugs giants an edge

Two of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies have revealed how software systems are helping them to gain competitive edge...

Two of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies have revealed how software systems are helping them to gain competitive edge in a market where gaining knowledge quickly is vital.

AstraZeneca, which spent £1.6bn on research and development in 2001, said business intelligence software has helped it plan more effectively, reduce costs and get new products to market more quickly.

The Matrix system, based on software from supplier Business Objects, provides researchers, management and executives at AstraZeneca with immediate access to critical product research, development and trial project management information by site, function, project or clinical trial.

The system has given AstraZeneca greater transparency on project activity and R&D spend on new products. This has enabled more accurate project budgeting and resource allocation, said Paul Edge, AstraZeneca's global project manager for Matrix.

"AstraZeneca invests $10m every working day in R&D, the majority of which will be spent on development," he said. "As the patent for a new drug runs out after 15 years, the earlier we can deliver new drugs to the market before our competitors, the sooner we can establish brand leadership, save costs and generate increased revenues.

"Matrix is central to helping us achieve this by speeding the availability of R&D project information across AstraZeneca."

There has been a resurgence in interest in business intelligence software as companies look to get the most out of the data they store, said Helena Schwenk, business intelligence analyst at research firm Ovum. "Business intelligence software is creeping up the corporate agenda because of the economic pressure companies are facing," she said. "Lots of companies are using business intelligence to save money."

Another example of this is Aventis Pharmaceuticals, which last week announced it is rolling out a system that gives medical professionals in its call centres faster access to drug information through its Siebel CRM system.

The Aventis Medical Information System (Amis) will allow the call centre to handle additional calls without having to take on extra staff - a key issue for a call centre staffed with highly paid doctors and nurses.

When a call centre agent receives a query from a doctor about a particular Aventis drug, the system, based on document management software from Documentum, will search for and retrieve relevant information on the drug based on a number of resources. These include medical journals, clinical trials and research by the Aventis drug safety department, which is also linked into the system.

After a call centre operator has dealt with a phone query, Amis allows them to mail, e-mail or fax follow-up information automatically.

System benefits at a glance   

  • AstraZeneca said business intelligence software has improved research and development processes, improving planning, cutting costs and accelerating time to market 
  • Aventis Pharmaceuticals plans to roll out a system giving medical professionals in its call centres faster access to drug information in its database.

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