Pharma executives value emerging tech solutions for drug discount programs, survey reveals

Updated on January 10, 2024
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A recent survey of pharmaceutical executives highlights a fascinating dichotomy regarding their opinions about technology as a solution for drug discount management, while also underscoring how the practice is at an inflection point.

The online survey of 100 pharma executives shows that nearly six in 10 (58%) respondents are less than satisfied with the technologies and tools they currently are using for drug discount management. 

However, this discontent among pharma executives has not dimmed their belief in technology: 99% of survey respondents agree that emerging technologies are poised to transform drug discount management for their organizations. And many of these pharmaceutical executives expect their organizations to increasingly embrace technologies, such as data analytics platforms, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning over the next five years. 

A spectrum of solutions

It’s not clear from the survey data whether pharma executives are more dissatisfied with their own drug discount management technologies or third-party solutions. What is clear is that some pharmaceutical companies are trying a grab-bag of approaches to drug discount management. 

Nearly one-half of survey respondents said their organizations are using two technologies for drug discount management: data analytics platforms (48%) and revenue/gross-to-net reporting management platforms (47%). But respondents also mentioned several other approaches or technologies currently being used in their organizations to manage drug discount programs. They include:  

●  Manual data entry into spreadsheets (35%)  
●  Third-party managed services (34%) 
●  AI and machine learning solutions (30%) 
●  Bot technologies that scrub discount program lists (24%) 

It’s hard to believe that in the digital age more than one-third of pharmaceutical companies still are resorting to manually entering data into Excel spreadsheets to track duplicate discounts that can cost millions of dollars a year in lost revenue if not identified and recovered. Yet that’s what far too many pharmaceutical companies are using. 

Drug discount management programs that rely on manual entry are built to fail because they cannot scale to keep up with the growth of drug discount programs such as the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program (MDRP) and 340B. Pharmaceutical companies that continue to rely on staffers – humans prone to error – to manually input discount data into Excel spreadsheets will struggle with inefficiencies that result in ongoing revenue bleed and unnecessary costs. 

Comments from three survey respondents are both illustrative of the problems with manual entry and entirely unsurprising:

  • “Relying on manual processes and other tools that we use makes our drug discount management difficult and does not fulfill our needs.”
  • “Because of manual input, the process of drug management has become very tedious, and there are chances of error.”
  • “It is difficult working with our current tools and technologies as the management of drug discounts requires many considerations and data from various sources.”

That last response addresses another problem pharmaceutical entities face when using multiple tools and processes to manage drug discount programs: Sharing data among drug discount stakeholders, such as Covered Entities and state Medicaid agencies, can be difficult and time-consuming. This, in turn, leads to a lack of transparency that can devolve into lack of trust and cooperation between these and other stakeholders. 

Embracing transformation

Given the fierce competition in the pharma sector and continuing uncertainty about the global economy, drug companies simply cannot afford to run underperforming drug discount programs. 

The good news is that pharmaceutical executives increasingly recognize the value of AI enabled technology platforms and SaaS products for drug discount management, with 39% predicting their organizations will use AI tools in their drug discount programs in the next five years, up from 30% that are using AI now. More than one-half (52%) expect their organizations to deploy data analytics for drug discounts within five years, up from the current 48%, according to the survey.

In contrast, the use of manual data entry into spreadsheets is expected to drop by more than one-half over the next five years to 17% from 35%, the survey shows. This indicates pharmaceutical executives are keenly aware that manual processes are holding back their drug discount programs. 


Pharma executives are far from satisfied with the technology solutions they currently are deploying for their drug discount management programs. At the same time, these executives recognize the need to move away from manual data entry and more rudimentary, legacy technologies, such as revenue/GTN reporting management platforms, to an end to end SaaS (software as a service) and PaaS (platform as a service) solutions that helps transparency across the ecosystem and is built with advanced technologies such as cloud native data lake houses, data pipelines that enhance quality, data analytics and AI. Drug discount management programs that aren’t using a purpose-built technology platform will continue to bleed revenue and be unable to scale as these discount programs expand.

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Sudhakar Velamoor
CTO at Kalderos

Sudhakar Velamoor is the CTO of Kalderos and a technology leader who has helped bring multiple enterprise scale healthcare and financial technology platforms to market, which leverage AI and cloud native / hybrid cloud environments.