The situation is the same in most developed countries around the world: life expectancy is rapidly increasing, while birthrates are falling. Causes include growing prosperity, and pharmaceuticals that are becoming increasingly effective. As a result, the share of older people in the population is rising. In many cases, an increase in age means an increase in the number and complexity of illnesses, some of which may also be chronic. Dementia, cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular problems, diseases of the respiratory organs and cerebral perfusion disorders are among the many ailments often associated with age.
Chronic ailments can be very expensive. Generally, therapy is costly, either because expensive procedures are required or because chronic diseases result in long-term costs.
Today, health care systems around the world are already under enormous financial pressure. Many governments are making efforts to contain costs by reducing expenditure for hospitals and physicians in private practice, as well as for medications.
For the pharmaceutical industry, this can bring both challenges and opportunities. While there are challenges involved in serving health care systems focused on reducing costs, there is also a market for new service offerings, especially those that help health care systems get out of the financial squeeze they are in.
By developing such offerings, the pharmaceutical industry can conquer new territory, not only in the traditional field of active substances, but also in the provision of health care and treatment services for the elderly and the sick.
Companies should therefore try to stray from the beaten path of common therapies and strategies, and should aim to break new ground. The industry needs a new vision and new business models that supplement its current ones.
These business models need to focus on the provision of new methods of early detection and illness prevention. Particularly with respect to age-related ailments, it is important to put prevention ahead of often unpleasant and expensive treatments.
When looking for opportunities for growth, the pharmaceutical industry would be wise to also focus on pioneering technologies for data collection, analysis and interpretation. Because for pharmaceutical companies, data access is essential — both as an indicator for the efficacy of their products, and as a strategic decision-making aid. The new mathematical models of data acquisition provide useful approaches for a more precise determination of disease trends, as well as for measuring therapeutic efficacies.
How urgent tackling all of these tasks is becomes apparent from the actual developments in life expectancy. Statistically, those who were born in Germany in 1970 had an average of 67.2 (men) or 73.4 (women) years ahead of them. Ten years later, this had already increased to 69.6 and 76.3 years respectively. And boys born in 2015 will reach 78.4 years of age, while girls will reach 83.4 years of age.
Living in Switzerland appears to be even healthier. Men born in 1981 could expect 72.4 years ahead of them, while women could expect 79.2 years. In 1991, life expectancy for men was already at 74.1; for women, it was already at 81.2. By 2015, the prognoses had improved once again to 80.7 years for men and 84.9 years for women. The life expectancy curves are thus quite dynamic.