2020 was the year of CBD and digital therapeutics

2020 was the year of CBD and digital therapeutics
Digital therapeutics (DTx) for consumer healthcare categories – both software and medical devices – offer important opportunities, says Amit Shukla, global head, consulting services and thought leadership at IQVIA Consumer Health

4 March 2021 - Deborah Wilkes

2020 was a challenging year for consumer healthcare companies seeking to introduce new products, says IQVIA Consumer Health’s Amit Shukla, who points out there were fewer launches and they were backed by lower marketing spends. Two areas attracting significant interest during the year, says Shukla, were cannabidiol (CBD) and digital therapeutics (DTx).

Shukla – who is global head, consulting services and thought leadership at IQVIA Consumer Health – tells OTCToolbox that several companies postponed introductions in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some launches in the allergy category were delayed, he says, and some newcomers for the summer season were delayed because of travel restrictions.

Meanwhile, one of the biggest launches of the year – GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK’s) topical pain reliever Voltaren Arthritis Pain in the US – was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

GSK announced in February 2020 that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had switched the topical gel containing 1% diclofenac sodium from prescription-to-OTC status. Soon afterwards – just as the pandemic surged – Voltaren Arthritis Pain was available in stores across the US.

According to Shukla, there was “negligible consumer bandwidth for absorbing information about new products and their benefits during 2020”. “Consumers were focusing on securing supplies of their trusted brands,” he adds.

Furthermore, continues Shukla, some companies may have felt it was “insensitive to be touting their latest products in the middle of an ongoing crisis”.

CBD bucked the trend

One category that bucked the trend was CBD. Anxiety levels were high as people were confined to their homes, says Shukla, noting there was “intense” new product development in the CBD category, with companies introducing multiple new products, formats and indications.

DTx attracted attention

DTx – which uses digital technology such as patient-facing apps and wearables to collect active and passive data on patients between face-to-face appointments with doctors – also generated a lot of interest during 2020.

Shukla says DTx products for consumer healthcare categories – both software and medical devices – offer important opportunities. “Increasingly, DTx will be recommended to augment medicines or even as a companion therapy with OTC and prescription medicines,” he comments.

Key trends for post-COVID world

Looking ahead, Shukla says the business environment of the future will be very different from before the COVID-19 pandemic. If companies want to succeed in this changed world, he says, they need to “accelerate innovation on leading brands with line extensions and new scientific claims”.

This is one of seven key emerging trends in the post-COVID world identified by IQVIA Consumer Health (see Figure 1 below).

Figure 1: IQVIA Consumer Health's top seven consumer healthcare industry trends for 2021


IQVIA Consumer Health also stresses the importance of leveraging machine learning and artificial intelligence driven solutions for product personalisation, patient/shopper engagement and omnichannel targeting.

Consumer healthcare companies also need to strengthen internal capabilities to win in the e-commerce channel, says IQVIA Consumer Health, adding that this involves data, analytics, product assortment and journey mapping.

Automating where possible for productivity, simplification and cost optimisation is also important, says IQVIA Consumer Health, as is embedding sustainability as a way of doing business. IQVIA Consumer Health stresses that shareholders and millennials demand sustainability from the leading consumer healthcare firms.

IQVIA Consumer Health also says companies need to “hive off assets that are non-strategic and free up cash to invest in new growth opportunities”.

And last but not least, IQVIA Consumer Health says company structures will evolve, with increased regional autonomy and shrinking global headquarters.

Click here to contact Amit Shukla by email.

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