From The Editor | December 11, 2019

Outsourcing Industry: Naughty Or Nice in 2019?


By Louis Garguilo, Chief Editor, Outsourced Pharma

Santa silhoutte

It appears we never grow too old for a visit from the North Pole.

“So, Louis,” a well-rounded Santa Claus in red dress and cheeks says through an unsettling wry smile. “Has your drug development and manufacturing outsourcing sector been good this year?”

A childhood of practiced prevarication to similar seasonal questions supply me with a ready reply: “Yes. Very good.”

The difference is this time, I am telling the truth. We have been a force for good.

No Snow Job

Santa asks for details to back up my assertion. He’s heard the negativity circling around the overall drug industry this year.

“Allow me to start with the concept of ‘coming clean,’” I say to him. “And I don’t mean GMP protocols, though of course we excel at that.

“I mean as in truth-telling. For example, at Outsourced Pharma, we dove into important exposé on some of the negative aspects in our industry, such as in the books,  Bottle Of Lies and Drugs, Money, And Secret Handshakes. We utilized whatever source we could find as a force multiplier to bolster quality, transparency, and change for the better for patients around the world.

“Moreover, we put forth ideas for improvement from our vantage point within the industry – the authentic toy designers and makers, if you will. We added value this year with our coverage of drug shortages, and the great professionals in our industry trying to end them.

“We wrote with reason, but also emotion, about the loss of manufacturing jobs in the U.S., and particularly the dangers of an over-reliance on supply chains originating in China (and India). Yet we were also fair to the companies in China. We also evenly debated the FDA, and public policy.”

I pause. Santa seems at least partially mollified. A few reindeer suddenly appear to ask him a question, something about international shipping and supply-chain partners. I sense more opportunity, so when Santa turns back to me, I say:

“We also put our hearts into our main objective of improving external supply chains, and new technologies like blockchain.”

Santa raises a white eyebrow. Some shooting stars pass overhead, but I don’t let them distract us. (I mean, how often do you get to plead your case directly to Mr. Claus?)

“In fact,” I continue, “we challenged the entire premise upon which the U.S. drug (and health care) industry is based. We tackled subjects like the costs of drugs. We offered our readers opportunities to make value and moral judgments of their own on institutional and individual behaviors – kind of like you do each year, Mr. Claus.”

Time For Thanks

Santa pulls out a shiny gold pocket watch, scratches his white beard, and then nods for me to sum it all up.

“You know, Mr. Claus,” I say, rising to my dénouement, “If we learned one thing in 2019, it’s this:

“We learned that our global drug development and manufacturing outsourcing industry – which had seemed like our own cozy little corner of commerce – is today interrelated with so much of what is happening in the world.

“We’ve been thrust front and center in national debates about systemic health care reevaluation; drug pricing; innovator drugs verse generics and biosimilars; patient centricity; drug quality and safety; international trade, tariffs, and supply chains; and even national and local politics ... We even had an API manufacturer provide testimony at a recent Congressional hearing!”

Santa half-smiles.

“Sooo,” he says in a voice sounding like low-rumbling thunder, “you think Outsourced Pharma played well with others this year.”

“Well, yes we did, Mr. Claus,” I say instinctively.

“We kept close to our readers, shared analysis. We interviewed experienced, knowledgeable professionals, and provided more actionable information and best practices than ever before. We taught each other how to be better at outsourcing, and external partnerships and relationships.

“And we included stories about the younger generation. If I may, sir, I believe our industry is in the midst of a generational change. Like you, we need to focus on the younger members in our community.”

I think that sounded pretty good, so give this a shot, too:

“Mr. Claus, since they are held in your ‘off season,’ maybe you could attend one of our Outsourced Pharma Conferences, as a speaker. We’d love to hear about the efficiencies in your supply chain – or should I say cold chain. Please teach us about your data collection, use of AI and machine learning for manufacturing all those toys, and of course managing those mischievous elves.”

Santa lets out his patented belly laugh. “I’ll consider it,” he says, pushing back on his red cap.

I quickly add: “We should make sure you are subscribed to our e-newsletters, too.” With that, a banner with the url flies across the sky, pulled by a red sleigh.

“Well … I have visited your website to check up on you from time to time,” Santa admits.

I thank him. The conversation has gone well. (If I only had done this well in my youth, I would have scored a few more presents.)

Santa now straightens to his full height, and puts on a sideways scowl. The snow has started to come down faster, and he seems to be fading away, but I hear him say:

“And what about you, Louis. Have you been good this year?”

I’m suddenly unsure how to answer. I start to toss and turn, and manage to jolt myself awake.

“Oh … just a dream,” I realize. “Thank goodness.”

Then I realize this:

And thank goodness for every Outsourced Pharma reader, contributor, conference attendee and speaker, our sponsors, and my colleagues for making this a truly remarkable year.

Merry Christmas. Happy New Year.