Report: Targeted therapies account for nearly half of oncology drug sales

Even as global sales for oncology drugs topped $91 billion last year, a new report suggests a combination of factors is having an impact on cancer treatment. More targeted therapies treating smaller patient populations, reimbursement, rising drug costs and more effective screening and behavior change will impact treatment in the future, according to a report […]

Even as global sales for oncology drugs topped $91 billion last year, a new report suggests a combination of factors is having an impact on cancer treatment. More targeted therapies treating smaller patient populations, reimbursement, rising drug costs and more effective screening and behavior change will impact treatment in the future, according to a report by IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. I’ve highlighted some of the more notable findings from the report.

Targeted therapies have soared in the past 10 years. They used to represent 11 percent of global oncology sales but, as of last year, they accounted for 46 percent. By definition, these therapies are effective for smaller patient populations and payers are increasing their scrutiny of the value of these treatments relative to their incremental benefits over existing treatments.

Costs for branded oncology drugs have doubled from an average per month of $5,000 10 years ago to $10,000 last year. The impact of healthcare reform and the pressure to control costs has led to several challenges. Part of the challenge of treating cancer is that patients’ response to the same therapy can vary.

“Judging the incremental value of these treatments for individual patients is fraught with challenges due to the high level of variability of patient response, the frequent changes to protocol needed for patient care, and underlying issues of equity and patient care. Concentrated or single-payer health systems, and those utilizing health technology assessments to evaluate the value of treatments, tend to pay less than U.S. prices for medicines.”

The American Society of Clinical Oncology issued recommended targets for meaningful clinical trial outcomes.

Lung cancer and breast cancer show up the most in pharmaceutical company pipelines.

The biosimilar market is growing. On a global basis, biosimilars are expected to generate $6 billion to $12 billion in oncology sales by 2020, increasing the level of competition, but are expected to account for less than 5 percent of the total biologics market at that time.

The Breakthrough Therapy Designation program to get cancer therapies to market faster has been granted to 14 oncology drugs, accounting for 34 percent of drugs receiving this designation since it was started in 2012.

Cancer survival is improving and research suggests that’s partly due to changes in behavior and advances in treatment but more than anything else, cancer screening is detecting the disease earlier and making treatment more effective.

The venues where people receive treatment have increased the cost of cancer therapies For typical targeted therapies infused or injected by an oncologist, reimbursed costs for hospitals are more than double than they would be in a physician’s office and that has led to higher payer costs in recent years. That in turn has led to higher patient costs, “and can trigger reduced levels of therapeutic persistance.” The idea that patients would have to end lifesaving treatment because they can no longer shoulder the cost is horrifying.