Injectable treatments for multiple sclerosis reportedly account for 85 per cent of the market but this is expected to shrink as patients turn to alternative oral and high-efficacy treatments. To keep share Biogen thinks injectables must evolve to be more convenient and less off-putting to patients.
Speaking at an analyst day Tony Kingsley, executive vice president of global commercial operations at Biogen Idec, said: “There's no question it will shrink. It may shrink slower than seems intuitive…but in that product segment, convenience will increasingly win over time.”
An interferon beta-1a, Avonex, sold by Biogen Idec has a strong position in the MS injectables market and the biotech is preparing for the whittling away of demand. A central aspect of the preparation is the introduction of a single-use prefilled autoinjector to offer patients a more convenient alternative.
“We think Biogen Idec is well-positioned to gain share in that class over time because our life cycle management investments on Avonex have emphasised convenience, and we think convenience becomes the more important differentiator in this market over time”, Kingsley said.
Merck Serono has also has an autoinjector form of its interferon beta-1a, Rebif, and, like Biogen Idec, it touts the convenience of the delivery device. In February Biogen Idec won approval to market the device in the US and Kingsley said the experience there and in other markets has been very positive.
“It gives us an improved ability to meet those needs of patients but also the needs of the busy practices [that] don't have time, and it…leads to better compliance which is important to clinical outcome”, Kingsley said.
The next step in evolution of the interferon beta-1a product is PEGylatation. Biogen Idec plans to present data from tests on once and twice-monthly dosage regimes of its PEGylated Avonex next year.
“We think over time, PEGylated interferon is potentially a very, very interesting value proposition. If you assume that injectables class still exists in some measure…and you think about that kind of value proposition in the market where convenience matters, it's actually quite interesting”, Kingsley said.