Organisations in the global pharmaceuticals world have faced major disruptions to other aspects of their business, with immunisation rates going down and reductions in routine care and procedures having direct implications for pharmaceutical providers.

According to the British Medical Journal, the NHS’ move to alert level 4 to tackle a growing second wave highlights the strain the health service is under, and the increasing disruption to treatments, vaccines and procedures not directly linked to Covid-19.

One hospital, in particular, has cancelled all planned elective procedures to respond to the influx of patients, and this focus has affected the wider pharmaceutical world.

This has had a knock-on effect on the largest pharmaceutical manufacturers such as GlaxoSmithKline, as sales for vaccines for other winter conditions such as shingles were down.

The focus of the medical world is on developing vaccinations to help reduce the spread of Covid-19, a goal which has pushed many other medications and procedures to the side.

The winter lockdowns seen in England, France and Germany could be part of this, and there is speculation as to whether the shift in our behaviour and the move towards virtual healthcare would affect prescriptions.

Virtual Healthcare and Prescriptions

Virtual healthcare, sometimes known as remote healthcare or care over IP, is a range of care options that use communications software to allow for virtual visits between a doctor and a patient.

How this takes effect can vary, from literal consultations and check-ups taking place in the patient’s home, to smaller local clinics getting a qualified second opinion virtually.

There are limitations owing to the technology, so in-depth diagnoses and treatments options are currently not readily available options. However, as communications technology evolves, more conditions can be diagnosed online, with potential ramifications for the medical system.

We have already seen changes in the way medication has been prescribed, with an increase in funding to ensure care trusts can use e-prescribing.

This change to the traditional medical pipeline can affect how often medications are prescribed.

The medical world we see after Covid-19 may take a very different shape, where there are several avenues to access care outside of booking an appointment at a doctor’s clinic.

As technology advances, virtual healthcare will increasingly become the norm, even after Covid-19 is reduced or effectively controlled. Many lifestyle changes that have come from the virus will take a very long period of time to reverse, as will healthcare systems that have adapted to an influx of cases.

These changes to healthcare will have knock-on effects on other markets that are part of the medical ecosystem, including pharmaceuticals and medical technology.

Whilst there will never stop being a demand for in-person care, it may be the case that more treatments that used to require frequent visits to clinics can move virtually, and this itself could have an effect on medication requirements.

With so many procedures being postponed or cancelled, this naturally affects the medications that are prescribed to treat conditions that are not life-threatening.

It is up to the pharmaceuticals market to figure out how long they are willing to wait for demand to return to pre-covid levels.