Pandemics are an increasing global public health concern because, with increased globalization and the migration of people, the likelihood of pandemics is projected to increase. In December 2019, the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) was discovered and identified in Wuhan, China. On March 11th, the COVID-19 outbreak was characterized as a global pandemic by the world health organization (WHO). The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the lives of millions of people around the globe. In addition to having grave health consequences, the pandemic has also crushed people’s goals, upended family dynamics and job roles, and undermined economic stability. The pharmaceutical industry plays a pivotal role in the provision of quality healthcare services, especially during pandemics when medicines supply chain can be overwhelmed or shut down due to various reasons.
Looking back at previous pandemics, namely the black death (1346-1353), flu (1889-1890, 1918 and 1968), sixth cholera (1910-1911), Asian flu (1956-1958), and HIV-AIDs (2005-2012), many industries were affected negatively, individuals had complete upheaval in their daily activities, millions died and the pharmaceutical world was hugely affected. The current pandemic, the novel coronavirus disease 2019, is no exception.
COVID-19 may be seen as a century’s opportunity for the pharmaceutical industry, as it increases the demand for prescription medicines, vaccines and medical devices. This can be seen as one of the main short-term effects of COVID-19 epidemic; however, there are more short and long-term implications to it.
Demand change, supply shortages, panic buying and stocking, regulation changes, and shift of communication and promotions to remote interactions through technology and research and development (R&D) process changes can be seen as short-term impacts of COVID-19 on the health market.
On the other hand, due to many restrictions, social distancing precautions and lockdowns, marketing and promotions of healthcare products to providers are being shifted from face-to-face towards remote interactions and telecommunications. In the USA, the number of patients who have visited physician offices or clinics reduced by 70 to 80%. In Iran insurance coverage for tele-medicine is legislated for the first time by the high council of insurance in May 2020. This may lead to long-term behavioral changes in the health market.
Above being noted, there is a dilemma regarding pseudo-researches and industrial investments in medicines that will be identified as non-effective in the near future; which may eventually pose a considerable burden on the health system.
Approval delays for non-COVID-related pharmaceutical products, moving towards self-sufficiency in the pharm-production supply chain, industry growth slow-down (due to economical slow-downs for many countries) and possible trend changes in consumption could be seen as long-term impacts of COVID-19 on the health and pharmaceutical market.
Currently, the public is concerned with personal hygiene maintenance, using mainly nose/mouth protection, anti-infection materials for the environment, clothing, and hand sanitizers. Due to the extended period of the pandemic, this consumption may remain in behavioral acts of the public, globally and locally.
The COVID-19 global pandemic could be associated with numerous short- and long-term impacts on the health market, mainly the pharmaceutical sector; which can be seen from both global and local perspectives. Identifying these impacts may guide policy-makers in evidence-informed planning and decision-making to combat associated challenges.