Tuesday, June 24, 2014

EXCLUSIVE: Drug Sales Top $1 Trillion, Groundbreaking New Cancer Treatments, and Other Bold Predictions for Pharma's Future

What are the most popular prescription drugs in the United States? What will be the five most popular cancer drugs in five years? Which drug companies made the most money last year and which ones will make the most money in the future? A comprehensive evaluation of the national and worldwide markets for prescription drugs apparently has these answers, and more. 

Released on Tuesday, the “World Preview 2014, Outlook to 2020” report is based on market intelligence and consensus forecasts from the gurus at EvaluatePharma, a life science and healthcare firm boasting more than 85 staff analysts. Based on EvaluatePharma’s coverage of "the world’s leading 4,800" drug companies -- are there really that many!? -- the report highlights trends in prescription drug sales and breaks it down by individual therapy as well as region. 

Judging from the predictions, life is evidently good in the pharma and biotech sectors. "This much improved growth outlook comes as welcome news after two years of actual sales stagnation," Paul Hills, report author and Evaluate's head of operations, said in a statement today.
In addition to the generally bullish outlook for pharma and biotechnology, the report offers up some eye-opening predictions, which you can read here. The biggest attention-grabber for me is the projection that for first time in pharma's history, worldwide prescription drug sales will exceed one trillion dollars by 2020. 

It's always a bit chilling to read how much money really changes hands in the pharmaceutical world, and a bit off-putting to witness the accompanying giddiness by industry insiders. Sometimes, I do think they forget why this industry exists.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a capitalist and I support pharma and biotech efforts to make a profit. I'm alive because of a remarkable cancer drug (which tragically no longer exists). But a trillion dollars? Really? That feels like a benchmark the industry should not be touting too boisterously, unless they can accompany that with stats on how many lives they've saved or improved.

How will this trillion dollars translate into greater health for the citizens of the world? Indeed, will it? Is anyone doing a study on that?

But back to the report, which notes that 2013 was the best year ever for new drug approvals, with nine of the top ten forecast to reach "blockbuster status (more than $1 billion sales in the US) five-years post launch." That has to be considered good news for patients. Simple math: more products on the market = more options for patients  and potentially more people being treated.

An entire new generation of drugs are in fact coming to the market, most notably in the cancer sector, and that is also good news for me and my many fellow cancer patients and survivors. But the report only cites some of the cancer drugs currently in development. 

In its report, EvaluatePharma predicts the top five cancer treatments (in terms of sales) worldwide in 2020. I'm not in total agreement with their picks. Lots of variables here. There are so many cancer drugs in clinical trials right now. If only some of them are approved expeditiously by the FDA, marketed smartly by the drug companies, and embraced by oncologists, this can and will tip these predictions. 

For example, new-generation cancer drugs such as Gilead's idelalisib and Pharmacyclinics' ibrutinib, both of which are so-called "inhibitor" treatments showing remarkable promise for patients with lymphoma and other cancers, will certainly change the treatment landscape in the next five years and beyond.

Anyway, here's EvaluatePharma's Top Five cancer drugs for 2020:

1) Avastin - Roche's recombinant humanized monoclonal antibody treats a specific type of brain tumor, and certain types of cancers of the colon, kidney, and lung.

2) Nivolumab - Bristol Myers Squibb's humanized monoclonal antibody treats multiple cancers including renal cell carcinoma, lung cancer and melanoma.

3) Revlimid - Celgene's myeloma drug is now approved for mantle cell lymphoma and is being looked at for non-Hodgkin's and Hodgkin's lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and solid tumor cancers.

4) Rituxan - Roche and Genentech's blockbuster non-Hodgkin's lymphoma drug also treats arthritis.

5) Xtandi - Astellas Pharma's androgen receptor inhibitor  treats prostate cancer.

We'll see how it all shakes out in five years. Overall, the report concludes, the oncology market is expected to expand "by an average 11% per year between 2013 and 2020 and will account for $153.4 billion of global pharmaceutical sales." 

That's all great news for the pharmaceutical industry. But the bottom line for cancer patients, of course, is that all of this will hopefully mean more and better treatment options and a longer and better life. I'm optimistic, but keeping my eyes open wide. 

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