Understanding data security in the pharmaceutical industry

October 12, 2021


Data Security



Industry 4.0 also brings a number of potential security vulnerabilities and compliance issues. By processing more data firms inevitably open themselves up to the risk of cybercrime.

The growth of digital technology has been accompanied by a growth in cybercrime. Gartner predicts damages related to cybercrime will top $6bn globally by 2021. As healthcare and pharmaceutical companies become more adept at capturing, sharing and analysing data, they are also becoming increasingly attractive targets for cybercrime. Criminals are drawn in both by the quantity of highly sensitive personal data these organisations process, but also a perception that defences may not be as developed as other more mature industries such as the finance sector.

According to Deloitte pharmaceutical companies are being targeted more frequently than used to be the case. Criminals are looking to steal trade secrets, personal data and drug formulas and, as digital technology takes hold, all of these are potentially more vulnerable to attack.

The use of third parties also increases the risk exposure. Any organisation which connects with yours and shares data can present a potential weak point to your security. No matter how robust your own internal cyber security provisions are, they can be compromised by a partner organisation without significantly robust protocols.

According to a report from the Poneman Institute, 61% of breaches are caused by third parties and 44% of organisations describe those breaches as ‘business changing’.

As the owner of that data you will retain the responsibility for any data lost even if it occurs as a result of a failure with the partner. As such it is important to perform digital due diligence on any third parties to ensure their cyber security provisions are sufficiently.

Embracing data & digital technology

Although the pharmaceutical industry may have been slower than others on the uptake of advanced analytics, firms are investing significantly to embed data science into their operations. Some organisations are at the proof of concept stage, some are adding data science to key operations and some now see advanced analytics as a critical element to their strategy for the future. It’s no longer a question of ‘if’, but ‘how’ firms should embrace data & digital technology.

Many firms have assessed the risks of standing still outweigh the risks of adoption and this has recently led to fast adoption and desires to scale-up and scale-out their analytics capabilities. Many organisations have yielded new insights to drive efficiency, but several have encountered challenges along the way. 

Challenges such as a lack of expertise, inconsistent data standards, poor (or indeterminate) data quality, gaps in infrastructure and sub-optimal business culture have slowed adoption, or even derailed some initiatives. These challenges will therefore have to be solved if organisations are to be successful in their data and digital transformation. Those which have been successful have followed some common steps which has enabled them to lay good foundations, work with the best providers and minimise their exposure to risk.

While every organisation will be different it is possible to learn from others who have been successful already. The following eight steps will be useful:

  • Assess existing operations – structured baseline tools can help
  • Engage widely and share successes – do with, rather than do for
  • Get the right technology – migrate to a common data platform; consistent tools
  • Pick the right outcomes – yield, quality, cost, time and organise data processes around thoseImprove data quality – standard approaches, common processes & platforms, QC notifications and alerts
  • Abstract analysis from operations – share data analysis outputs widely
  • Adopt the right learning model – centres of excellence and third-party support structure
  • Ensure security, transparency and privacy – being agile and gaining digital benefits whilst maintaining compliance

This represents a useful template on which pharmaceutical manufacturers can base their digital transformation projects. By laying the groundwork and taking a measured step by step approach, firms can ensure a successful and sustainable implementation which ensures they will be on the right side of the digital revolution.

About the author

Kim Loynes

Digital Marketing Executive
Kim has a broad history of marketing and events and is responsible for marketing initiatives at Wyoming Interactive. With ten years of experience in various industries, her expertise covers many areas and is always ready with ideas.

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