A big challenge is getting the right drug to the right people. In the developing world, however, this can be a particularly daunting task as diagnostic practices and tools can be very poor. Recently, Executive Editor Randall C Willis spoke with Beckman Coulter's Gary Hopgood about this problem.
DDN: What do you see as the challenges and concerns about the current diagnostic practices in the developing world?
Hopgood: Currently, practices can vary significantly from poor quality, manual procedures to world-class facilities and delivery. Geography and economics are the primary variables. Remote rural regions in many developing countries have neither the infrastructure nor funding to allow for anything other than the most basic of diagnostic practices. But even where good facilities can be found, there is often a lack of coordinated, country-wide infrastructure from a policy, quality or regulatory standpoint to support an agreed norm. Most developing countries will look to the West for guidance and advice in creating their own standards.
For a supplier of diagnostic solutions to the developing world, the challenges primarily revolve around the need to support educational activity in deployment. Many organizational, structural and process-oriented norms found in Western market healthcare environments are not necessarily the norm in developing markets. To enable the full value proposition of our solutions to be achieved, there is a need to create partnerships and early investments in healthcare system development, training and general consultation at many levels.
Primary concerns in the developing world are corruption, availability of funds and infrastructural instability. Not only does this point to the obvious areas of power supplies, etc., but also supply chain processes that can impact whether a laboratory has any supply or not. Further, political structures can impact funding flows and there can often be a disconnect between national level tendering for the supply of instrumentation and the subsequent local funding and supply process for consumables required to actually use the instrumentation and therefore deliver diagnostic results.
It's an unfortunate reality that world-class instruments are gathering dust in labs in developing markets due to lack of consumables and supplies. And in those same labs, the actual work may be carried out using the original basic manual techniques the instruments were intended to replace.
DDN: How might drug and device companies better apply their resources to ameliorate these challenges?
Hopgood: There is no doubt that current products are often developed with the major Western markets in mind. This will change. Companies can (and some already do) begin to change their development strategies with intent to produce products that can better fit developing markets. Examples could include:
• Cost-reduced models with unnecessary features stripped out;
• Improved power supply or battery back-up solutions as a norm;
• Removal of any need for water or vacuum systems;
• Modular products that can enable a broader range of market segments to be targeted;
• Easy-to-use equipment with good graphical self-help training software;
• Investment in language and regulatory compliance covering an increasing range of countries that include developing economies; and
• Investment in educational activities.
DDN: Can you describe some of your efforts in this vein?
Hopgood: Beckman Coulter has begun to focus more on understanding and deploying solutions targeted towards specific disease states. In doing this, we begin to provide the educational investment that these markets require. Furthermore, our solutions integrate previously disconnected or disparate instruments and software into more cohesive and integrated systems, thus providing the ease of use and interpretational outcomes needed.
DDN: Do you have any other thoughts you would like to contribute?
Hopgood: Certain developing markets are certainly key areas for commercial growth for the future. Obvious examples are China and India with their huge populations that will demand ever-improving healthcare quality and delivery. Others are Russia and some Middle East countries. This all requires a growing learning curve for any company so that the demands of these growing economies are understood and can be responded to.