According to IMS Health Research, US sales of oncology drugs are slowing despite more firms promising exciting cancer drug developments.
IMS reported that sales of oncology drugs in the US increased by just 3.5 per cent in the months running up to September this year; a stark contrast to the 9 per cent rise in both 2008 and 2009, and the growth of 14 per cent seen in 2006.
Speaking at the Reuters Health Summit, IMS senior vice president, Murray Aitken, said the “unprecedented slowdown” highlights that from now on “the oncology market will be driven by innovation.”
Christopher Ung, vice president of strategic business and operations for oncology at Quintiles, told in-PharmaTechnologist that innovative, modern cancer drugs are becoming more precise, targeting specific molecular switches in tumour growth and having fewer side effects.
Aitken argued that while large pharmaceutical companies are investing more in oncology research, recent targeted drugs are often nothing more than expensive variants of existing products, which clog up the market and fail to offer new treatment options to patients.
The reason behind a lack of novel therapeutics, believes Ung, is that “companies want to be involved in the development of diagnostics, but they are not necessarily equipped for the development.” Quintiles believes it can capitalise in this by partnering with such firms to help produce advanced therapeutics.
Despite his concerns about limited treatment options for many cancers, Aitken said, “Oncology is a key part of many companies' strategy for future growth,” adding, “there is a lot in the pipeline that looks very exciting.”
Personalised medicines key to success
Keen to “advance personalised medicines” for cancer treatment, Quintiles recently teamed up with Danish-based firm Dako, as well as AstraZeneca, to co-develop targeted oncology therapies and companion diagnostics.
Ung believes that the amount of competition in developing cancer therapies is healthy.
“Cancer is a large and complicated area, and competition forces us to develop better therapeutics, faster,” he said.
Thinking back to a time when being diagnosed with lung cancer equated to a death sentence, Ung said some cancers can be challenging to treat, but new breakthroughs in oncology therapeutics has seen an increase in the positive response of patients to treatment.
“More importantly,” Ung said, “patients have the option of treatments which can provide success.
“What is most important is understanding the disease and being able to make sure we get the right drug to the right patient,” he added.