Pharmaceutical companies are wasting time and money in economically constrained circumstances by failing to align their strategic objectives and the structure, design and performance criteria of their relationships with clinical research organisations (CROs), a new report warns.

The report, Nimble Partnerships in the Pharma Industry: Well-Designed CRO Relationships Enhance Focus and Flexibility, is co-authored by ICON, the Dublin, Ireland-based provider of outsourced development services to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device industries, and by consulting firm Booz & Company.

It notes that global pharmaceutical outsourcing is expected to be worth US$28 billion this year, climbing to $35.5 billion by 2015 – an increase of more than 10% since 2009.

Critical key

In today’s “increasingly complex and competitive environment”, developing the capabilities to partner with CROs is a “critical key to success” for pharmaceutical  companies, says Matthew Le Merle, partner with Booz & Company.

“But our research clearly showed that most companies are not structuring their CRO relationships strategically.”

Among the report’s other core findings was that pharmaceutical companies currently have “a broad strategic rationale” for clinical outsourcing and continue to experiment with different CRO relationship models.

Four types of model are emerging, it says: the ‘qualified talent supplier’; the ‘preferred capacity partner’; the ‘preferred capability partner’ and the strategic partner.

Top-down approach

Regardless of the model chosen, comments ICON chief executive officer Ciaran Murray, “a top-down approach to partnerships where the performance measures are tied to the strategic objectives of the partnership is fundamental to success”.