In case you haven’t heard: Samsung is now a pharmaceutical company, or at least on the point of becoming one. Subsequent to its having invested at least $2b in biopharmaceuticals, the South Korean giant will be bringing a biosimilar version of Amgen’s Enbrel to market in 2016.
In 2016, a company best known for its consumer electronics and heavily invested in mobile health is going to start producing pharmaceuticals, and will apparently begin by bringing a treatment to market which will presumably make it a dominant force overnight in the two disease areas in which Enbrel has indications, namely moderate-to-severe rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis.
The implications of this for legacy pharmaceutical companies are wide-reaching and significant. Let’s consider a few of them (I anticipate updating this post over the next few months):
Samsung now has more touch points across the health ecosystem than any other pharmaceutical company
Look at the roster of products that Samsung already offers health consumers: the S Health family of resident apps; the built-in heart rate monitor in its latest Galaxy S5 phone (note how the promotional microsite leads with a health-focused intro video); its health peripherals such as Gear Fit.
Thinking beyond this relatively simple offering, a future that will arrive rapidly looks set to destroy the medical device industry. As more sensors and monitors are added to next generation Samsung models, the history of technological consolidation into single devices suggests to us that stand-alone medical devices will disappear. Why would people with T1 diabetes want to carry around a phone and a blood glucose monitor, for example? They wouldn’t, and one suspects they soon won’t be.
Returning to think about Samsung’s role as a pharmaceutical company: the company is doubtless already developing Proteus-like ingestible pill technologies, the data from which will stream to Samsung’s own devices.
Samsung is also a contender for being the first company to bring a 3D printed home pharmacy solution to market, if they’re allowed to do so.
Samsung’s total focus on customer experience and design makes it a credible champion of the participatory patient’s interests
If the phrase ‘patient revolution’ already sounds old hat, then the thinking that the innumerable dialogues concerning the co-creation of care have forged still struggles to find adequate expression in reality.
However, as a producer of consumer electronics and pharmaceuticals, Samsung has the potential to reconcile the difficult distinction between the idea of the person, the patient, and the health consumer.
Samsung understands how to design for and serve consumer experience.
It will use the same principles to understand, design for, and serve patient experience.
Hopefully it will appoint a few of the talented, dedicated, and hugely influential rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis bloggers to VP of Patient Experience roles to help move things along.
Hundreds of millions of people carry this pharmaceutical company’s brand with them day and night
We know how attached (for better or worse) people are to mobile technologies.
Those legacy pharmaceutical companies working in moderate-to-severe rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis that are trying to reform the pharmaceutical industry by socialising their enterprise in order to strengthen existing relationships and create new ones are going to be hard pressed to compete with a company that also produces some of the most popular mobile devices currently available.
Consumers will think of Samsung as a consumer electronics company that makes pharmaceuticals
Whether Samsung will be able to improve the quality of life of those living with rheumatoid arthritis or psoriatic arthritis remains to be seen. Whether Samsung will elect to view people as consumers rather than patients seems a rhetorical question, so blindingly obvious is the answer.
Aside from the benefits that Samsung will enjoy in terms of the trust in and familiarity with its brand values that consumers already have from a healthcare consumer’s perspective, this is the biggest win for the company: their products, including their drugs, will de-medicalise (‘normalise’, if you will) thinking about and discussion of disease.
Samsung will be the first consumer technology company to enter the pharmaceutical marketplace, but it will not be the last
If this thought doesn’t focus legacy pharmaceutical companies into throwing everything they have into reforming themselves as social business, nothing will. The survival of even the largest companies is far from certain when giants such as Samsung have set their sights upon entering the industry.
Samsung doesn’t think like a pharmaceutical company.
Pharmaceutical companies better start thinking like Samsung.