Second Opinion: Mental Health, Tenders, and Creative AI

2023-07-26 |  Shrinivas Anikhindi, Monique Biryiana, Tahmid Rahman & Shaan Patel

Welcome back to Second Opinion. Today we’re looking at a side of care we don’t always talk about as a standalone: mental health.

Now pharma has been increasingly aware of and involved with the psychological burden of disease, building support programmes to manage the long-term impact of chronic diseases, and supporting healthcare systems with the emotional side of patient pathways, but what about mental health in its entirety?

We’re entering a, perhaps not golden age, but definitely at least a bronze or silver age of mental health awareness. People are more comfortable talking about what ails them, happy to disclose that they attend therapy (including yours truly), and less quick to dismiss the effects of depression or anxiety in the workplace.

Nevertheless, mental health still takes a significant toll on our global population, and today we’ll be looking at where pharma sits in the battle to tackle that. We also have a fascinating summary of tenders – what they are, why they matter, and what we need to be doing differently in how we approach them; and finally, a scintillating summary of a webinar one of our authors attended recently about the potential of AI in creative content generation.

As always, please write in with your thoughts or continue the discussion with us on our socials!


A sobering forecast by the Mental Health Foundation anticipates that by 2030, heart disease will be eclipsed by mental health issues as the chief cause of mortality. With untreated mental health conditions contributing to a staggering 13% of the total global disease burden, there is a call to action for the pharmaceutical industry to be a critical ally in addressing this mounting crisis, as with its pivotal role during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Let’s start by understanding mental health care at the patient level and then delve into the economic reasons and impacts for pharma prioritising mental health.

Need for Pharma’s Holistic Approach to Mental Health for Patients

The pandemic years witnessed a rise in global mental health cases, with the latest NHS study revealing an increase to 1 in 4 young adults grappling with mental health disorders in 2022, compared to 1 in 6 in 2021. The causes of this are manifold, from global stability factors to socio-cultural ones, but ultimately there is a gap that pharma has an opportunity to stand up and tackle.

Traditionally, the pharma industry tackles health complications with a 'pill provision' approach. A recent report by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) indicates there are 163 medicines in clinical trials or awaiting FDA review intended to alleviate mental health symptoms. But are pills the answer to this broad issue? We don’t think so, because very recent figures report that only ~16.5% of adults take prescription medication for their mental health and cases continue to rise.

Pills are not deemed to be effective for cases caused by non-biological reasons (There are over 200 classified forms of mental health issues). Previous studies show that non-pharmacological therapies such as psychotherapy can be equally, or even more, effective than medication alone. Thus, the pharma industry should consider a more holistic approach to therapy, reflecting the multifaceted nature of mental health problems. This can include collaborating with mental health organizations similar to Pfizer in Singapore which formed an exclusive partnership with ThoughtFull.

An additional concern is the significant dropout rates and non-adherence to prescribed treatments among patients suffering from mental health conditions. This not only exacerbates clinical outcomes but also undermines the credibility and trust in the treatment – a lesson highlighted during the COVID vaccination drive, which left 13.7 million households in England unvaccinated to date.

Economy Calling Pharma to Lead the Fight

Oxford Economics research has unveiled that mental health problems have prohibited 181,600 individuals from entering the workforce and 15% of all workers have a mental disorder. Why should this concern the pharmaceutical industry, especially with this figure continuing to rise? Mainly because healthcare expenditure constitutes a substantial 12% of the UK's total consumption, with a high risk of this decreasing as there is evidence that non-adherence to pharmacological treatments in patients with a mental illness was 43% alongside the rise in mental health cases mentioned previously. These statistics indicate pharma may face a decline in revenue and a reduction in the quality of the UK’s labour force in the long run if mental health remains unprioritised.

The World Economic Forum and the Harvard School of Public Health estimate the global economic toll of mental health issues could amount to an alarming $16 trillion between 2010 and 2030. Interestingly, the rate of mental illness is escalating at a faster pace among the youth than the adult population. Sources have shown that without effective mental health therapies, there is a much greater risk of overall school failure, increase in criminal activity and dependence on social services which contributes towards that startling projected cost.

In addition, when the public sees pharma companies providing mental health support, it builds trust in and a positive reputation of the pharma industry. Patients will feel more confident coming forward knowing they are heard, especially when 36% of adults never discuss their mental health.

Pharma Being Behind…

The latest medical news in life sciences reports that the biotechnology market is ‘poised to fill the gap where the largest pharmaceutical companies have tended to drop their efforts in [mental health]’. Articles have backed this up stating that pharma giants have cut research on psychiatric medicine by 70% in 10 years.

With the advancement in digital health, Oxford University has developed 2 digital mental health technologies to support mental health in young people. There are also 8 more digital tools recommended by The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE); none are from pharma.

The pharma industry is already a key user of digital health for uses such as patient data monitoring, and so already has the infrastructure in place to catch up with others. 

Our Second Opinion:
Due to its prominent presence in the healthcare industry, the pharmaceutical sector must prioritise mental health. The benefits won’t only be limited to industry and patient level, it will also have wider effects on a macroeconomic scale. 




Recently, a couple of us from the Second Opinion team sat down with Nico Bacharidis, Chief Commercial Officer at Cube RM, to explore the field of tendering and how this can be accelerated by technology/AI to improve pricing and visibility for the healthcare market.

Below are the key takeaways you need to know about healthcare tenders, but make sure you head over to our website to listen to the full podcast episode for more.

Tenders – A Competitive Process

To put it simply, tendering is a procurement procedure to purchase medications using a competitive “bidding” process for a particular contract, typically used by large, institutional buyers such as public health or healthcare organisations.

Tenders exist in many forms, but the main types are open, restricted and negotiated tenders:

  • Open tenders: The most common type of tender that is open for all interested suppliers and are usually highly competitive.
  • Restricted tenders: Restricted to pre-registered or pre-qualified suppliers and are commonly used for complex contracts.
  • Negotiated tenders: Involves the buyer approaching a single supplier to acquire the product, where the two parties engage exclusively to negotiate the contract terms. These types of tenders are typically used for highly specialised contracts with a high set price.

Tenders can also vary by duration and may be awarded to one or multiple bidders, depending on the nature of the contract/tender. A specific set of criteria are used to determine which bidder to award the contract to and these can vary depending on the specific context and country’s regulations. However, some common award criteria used in healthcare tenders include:

  • Technical Suitability
  • Financial Stability
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Quality of Product
  • Capacity and Resources
  • Sustainability and Environmental Impact

Alongside these criteria, the MEAT (Most Economically Advantageous Tender) principle is a method of assessment that aids the selection process. Although it is not used universally across the globe, MEAT tenders focus on value for money and consider quality, technical competence and cost-effectiveness to ensure better patient outcomes and efficient healthcare delivery.

Importance of Tenders in Healthcare

According to an IQVIA report, ~40% of drug purchases in Europe are acquired through tenders and more than half of the pharma companies surveyed by IQVIA indicated that more than 80% of their business comes from tendering. From these figures alone, is it clear that tenders are becoming increasingly common in the healthcare space and are here to stay.

The challenges associated with ageing populations, chronic diseases and skyrocketing healthcare costs mean that additional pressure is being placed on the sustainability of healthcare systems. Tenders could be a feasible and long-term strategy to relieve some of these pressures by reducing the costs of medications for patients around the world.

If you consider tenders as channels, to optimally manage a channel, contribution from different departments is essential. With this lens, it makes sense that tenders should touch the entire value chain in pharma – for example, input from medical and marketing are instrumental in building the value proposition along with the involvement of legal to finalise the offer.

Among pharma companies, there seems to be a growing understanding that cross-functional collaboration to manage and execute these tenders is key, but a tender lead should be established to coordinate these efforts. Make sure you tune into the podcast to hear Nico talk about what constitutes the ‘perfect’ approach to tenders!

Key Challenges and how AI can Help

According to a survey conducted by Cube RM in 2022, the top 3 challenges that healthcare companies face when it comes to tendering include:

• Tender discovery and planning

• Data and intelligence

• Price finding

There is a clear need to improve these areas and make the end-to-end tender process more sustainable for healthcare organisations. Cube RM’s AI-driven platform can address these challenges.

With Cube RM’s platform, healthcare organisations can streamline and automate the tendering process to improve tender discovery and visibility, gather market intelligence and generate predictive insights. These enhanced capabilities allow for data-driven decision-making, helping organisations optimise their procurement outcomes and ultimately deliver the best service for their patients.

Key Trends and Future Outlook

As the tendering field expands, several key trends have emerged and are predicted to rise:

  • Sustainable criteria: The use of more sustainable criteria is being observed in some markets, but not all. It is important to note that award criteria are more country-driven than portfolio-driven, which may be the reason for this slow uptake.
  • Cross-national tenders: Countries are partnering to increase their buying and negotiating power when bidding for tenders.
  • Geographical patterns: The use of tenders appears to be more advanced in Northwest Europe compared to Southeast Europe where they are less advanced and have limited experience. Likewise, MEAT tenders are more commonplace in Northwest Europe compared to Southeast Europe, where tenders are more price-focussed.

Nevertheless, when carefully managed, tenders serve as an essential tool for healthcare organisations to make informed decisions and achieve efficient and effective service delivery. Future trends in healthcare tendering are expected to revolve around increased digitalisation and technology adoption to streamline processes and enhance transparency for all stakeholders involved. 


In today's rapidly evolving landscape of innovation, the buzz around ChatGPT, AI, and automation dominates the conversation. Yet, amidst this trend, the pertinent question remains: do these advancements hold true relevance for our industry? Seeking answers, I recently attended a webinar that offered some intriguing insights, particularly around the use of creative AI to foster inclusive innovation.

Three key areas stood out as particularly interesting for driving innovation within our industry:

  1. Debiasing research: By leveraging AI tools to identify bias in secondary market and competitor research and predicting the perspectives of underrepresented communities through synthetic testing, we can target our products, services, and research towards these groups, bridging gaps in accessibility and representation
  2. Predictive testing: Utilising cutting-edge tools like ChatGPT-4 and Synthetic Users, we can gain predictive feedback based on persona mindsets, facilitating idea generation that fulfils the needs and resonates with underrepresented groups. AI uncovers insights such as a lack of empathy or consideration for underrepresented communities’ situations, which proves especially valuable for product development and deployment and targeted messaging of brand campaigns and educational materials
  3. Inclusion mapping: AI-driven testing of prototypes helps identify potential areas of unintended exclusion. Using AI-generated suggestions to address these areas of unintended exclusion, ensures the consideration of all relevant groups, with features such as multilingual support and accessibility tools for those with disabilities

While AI holds the potential to solve numerous challenges beyond our imagination, a blind implementation in the absence of a well-defined strategy and clear objectives is unlikely to yield optimal results. Ethical considerations, adherence to industry regulations regarding AI usage, meticulous dataset quality, and meaningful human involvement are critical for accurate, ethical, and effective deployment of AI solutions.

By embracing the power of creative AI in innovation efforts, Life Sciences companies can achieve true inclusivity and deliver on their promise to positively impact on societal health and well-being to the maximum extent possible. 

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